southafrica

“No farmer, no food”

We have all probably seen this or a similar slogan at some point in our lives, sported on a t-shirt by a cowboy (or in Australia, an akubra) hat-wearing, weather-beaten, tough-as-nails, wake-up-with-the-cows farmer, suggesting that our policies should be more countryside-minded and friendly because, after all, it’s farmers who come home with the bacon for us, the naive city folk.

But there are places around the world where that slogan is not a gentle rent-seeking request from our country cousins but an apt and tragic description of the reality.

Major roads in South Africa were brought to a crawl on Monday by thousands of white farmers protesting a wave of brutal farm attacks in the country.

The Black Monday protest, backed by civil rights group AfriForum, saw convoys of hundreds of slow-moving trucks blocking traffic on highways leading to farming areas in Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg, the Associated Press reported.

Participants wore black in memory of those killed. At the same time the protests were taking place, an elderly man was hacked to death with a machete on his vegetable farm in the northern town of Vryheid.

According to AfriForum, the murder of Bokkie Potgieter brings the total number of white farmers killed this year to 72 in more than 340 farm attacks, which are typically characterised by extreme brutality, rape and torture.

“A farmer has 4.5 times more chance of being murdered in South Africa, than an average South African,” AfriForum spokesman Ian Cameron told a crowd of hundreds gathered at the Afrikaners’ Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, according to the African News Agency.

“That means a farmer is three times more likely to be murdered in South Africa than a police officer in this country. So farmers have by far have the most dangerous job of all people in this country, at the moment. We cannot allow this to continue the way it is.”

South Africa provides a replay in slow motion of what has been happening in the neighbouring Zimbabwe for the past two decades, with white farmers being murdered and/or expropriated in order to redistribute the land to government supporters.

As a policy of post-colonial revenge on and score-setting with the whities, this policy has been a roaring success; as an economic policy it has been a disaster, destroying commercial agriculture and plunging the whole country into serious food shortages. That societies, which for millennia ably subsisted on agriculture, are now short of food, while the agricultural production around the world keeps steadily increasing, boggles one’s mind. Primitive socialism – is there anything it can’t do? While leaders like Mugabe and Zuma grow fat on corruption like ticks on blood, their attitude to their own countrymen and women seems to be “let them eat vengeance”.

Reporting on #BlackMonday protests, of course the BBC is there to tell us it’s all bullshit and to remind us who the real bad guys are:

The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says the protests are already causing racial divisions after some demonstrators were seen carrying the flag from the apartheid era, when South Africa was governed by its white minority and black people were not allowed to vote…

The idea that white farmers are being targeted has been going around for some time. The fact-checking site Africa Check found back in 2013 that white people in South Africa are less likely to be murdered than any other racial group.

But then, “Earlier in 2017, Africa Check said since there were no reliable estimates of how many people were working and living on farms, and that it was close to impossible to calculate a farm murder rate.” So maybe no one really knows what they’re talking about, including those on the other side of the debate who claim there is a “white genocide” going on. No doubt there are many in South African politics and society who would love to see their country white-free, but there are still a few million whites in South Africa, hence crying genocide is as silly there as in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I’m as much against apartheid as the next sensible person, but I don’t like people being killed either, and that includes white farmers. Maybe my concerns, however, are misplaced, or at least too narrow: “If you want to ascertain through statistics who are the most likely to be murdered in South Africa, then those are young black males,” says Gareth Newham, head of the governance, crime and justice division at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies. Presumably, by other young black males, though Newham doesn’t say. This makes the whole situation a mirror image of the whole #BlackLivesMatter/#AllLivesMatter controversy in America, except that the racial roles are reversed in as much it’s the whites who are in the minority in South Africa. Black kids killing other black kids sadly remains a constant, whether in Philadelphia or Pretoria.

Back in Zimbabwe, no mistake is so great that it won’t be repeated:

Land grabs of white-owned property have hit Zimbabwe for the second time as the southern African country’s strongman, 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, calls a familiar play as he seeks yet another term in office.

Ruling Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 — the country holds regular elections that critics say Mr. Mugabe routinely rigs — the president is evicting all the white farmers remaining in the impoverished nation and giving their highly productive farms to his supporters.

“All the white farmers remaining on the land must move out to pave way for our youth and ordinary Zimbabweans who have no access to land,” Mr. Mugabe said at a recent rally in Marondera, about 50 miles east of the capital of Harare. “The land is ours, and it must benefit our people. To those who oppose us, we have said to them, ‘Mind your own business.’”

According to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the unemployment rate in the country is 85 per cent. As everyone knows, nothing generates jobs as much as destroying the only remaining efficient industry. The Lupane State University just awarded Mugabe an honorary doctorate in agricultural science, the action the opposition described as “thoroughly ill” and “not a funny joke”. Mugabe, no doubt, will be able to enjoy this honour longer than his stint as the World Health Organisation’s goodwill ambassador.

Earlier this year, the ANC parliamentarians voted down the opposition motion to expropriate all white South African farmers without compensation. However, the country’s president, Jacob Zuma, also of the ANC, agreed with the opposition and called on all parties to unite in order to work on the necessary constitutional amendment to affect such policy. So stay tuned. Thanks to jokers who pass as leaders, countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa will reap what they don’t sow. Sadly, so will all their people. Marx famously wrote that history repeats itself, the first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce. Marx’s own ideology does one better: the second time is both a tragedy and a farce.

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