18 May 2018
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull, MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Mr Turnbull,
Re. South African farmers, Afrikaners, Australia and South Africa – A plea for constructive engagement
I am a South African citizen, residing in Pretoria, South Africa and a published legal scholar with long-standing experience in teaching and research. However, I am addressing this letter to you in my personal capacity. Although I am serving as a director on the boards of various Afrikaner associations in South Africa, I do not act by virtue of a mandate of any of these institutions. I have no doubt, however, that the views that I am expressing are a reliable reflection of vast numbers of Afrikaners and many other South Africans in general.
The purpose of this letter is primarily to request your government’s continued constructive engagement with a view to improving the current deteriorating situation in the Republic of South Africa, which we trust will contribute towards the improvement of the plight of South African farmers, the precarious situation of the Afrikaner community (to which I also belong) and South African society, including all its communities in general.
With great interest the South African public, more specifically the Afrikaners and South Africa’s farming community, as well as the South African government, have taken cognizance of initiatives of your government to reconsider favourably the conditions for facilitating the resettling in Australia of farmers under distress in South Africa.
The immediate backdrop of these initiatives, as I understand, are amongst other things, your government’s concern, shared by many citizens of your country about the appalling conditions that South Africa’s farming community are exposed to. These dire conditions, as you are most certainly aware of, refer particularly to two matters. First, the dreadful history of so-called farm murders in South Africa, and secondly, the looming threat against private property rights in South Africa.
Over the past two decades close to 1800 farmers have been murdered in South Africa. These murders are often accompanied by hideous torturing. Regrettably, the South African government’s response to this barbarism has been lax and after many years effective governmental intervention into this dismal state of affairs remains wanting, resulting in farming in South Africa now having become one of the most dangerous professions in the world. The barbaric crime that our farming community is suffering from, forms part of the general malaise of rampant crime, especially violent crime that all our communities, both black and white, is subjected to.
Lately, specifically because of a motion adopted with the support of the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), the National Assembly of the South African Parliament passed a resolution paving the way towards the confiscation – euphemistically misnamed expropriation without compensation – of property owned by the white inhabitants of South Africa.
Your government’s action has, with respect, not only shown concern for our farmers. It also intimated that South African farmers are resourceful, hard-working and successful, thus making them a much sought-after group, not only in Australia, but also in various African countries and elsewhere in the world.
I wish to express my gratitude for the appreciation of your government and of many Australian citizens for the exceptional quality of our distressed farmers and for the increasingly worrying position of our country’s minorities, more specifically also the Afrikaner minority. We trust that the constructive engagement of the Australian government and citizenry could play its due part in resolving this worrisome state of affairs.
In the middle 1990’s after considerable foreign influence on the then white minority government a constitutional settlement was reached in South Africa. Under the settlement, widely regarded as highly historical, the minority government under Afrikaner leadership voluntarily relinquished all political power in favour of the black majority, yet at the same time guaranteeing the full package of rights, including property rights of everyone.
The settlement, sometimes described as a miracle, earned wide-spread international acclaim, specifically from governments mostly involved in some way or the other in the political process that lead to the agreement. A little more than two decades on, it is clear now that the African National Congress who came to power following this settlement is reneging on the agreement. Not only is the ANC not keeping its commitment to Afrikaners and to the white minority. It is also reneging on the trust that many black South Africans have invested in the ANC and on the tenets of what they fought for.
The current South African situation no doubt poses a considerable number of grounds for grave concern. The South African public is suffering from the scourge of relentless violent crime, including murder, armed robbery and rape, to mention but a few. To date our police services have proven incapable to combat violent crime with any significant measure of success, to such an extent that the responsibility for guaranteeing personal safety has migrated away from the police service to a variety of private initiatives: South Africa is now per capita the country with the largest number of private security officers – more than three times the number of police officers; Ordinary inhabitants are on a large scale involved in private security initiatives, including neighbourhood watches, fortressing private residences, establishing high-walled security suburbs, employing private security at great personal cost and in some cases resorting to vigilante action.
The quality of government has over the past decades deteriorated extensively. Owing to large scale corruption, nepotism (in part in the guise of the officially proclaimed policy of cadre deployment) and large scale financial mismanagement, public services are poor or simply non-existent. Mal-administration impacts negatively on all South Africa’s inhabitants. Black South Africans, many of whom are poor, suffer most from the state’s failures. Often unemployed and subjected to poor or non-existent health, social and educational services, many of these marginalised peoples resort to protests which often descend into violence, wide-spread damage to property, physical injury and death. This is a regular if not daily occurrence in present-day South Africa. Just recently, as you no doubt are aware of, our president, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa hastily had to leave the Commonwealth summit in London for South Africa to attend to the wide-spread violence in the North-West province.
Although violence is never excusable, one should have understanding for the dreadful conditions and the frustration that many of South Africa’s poorest people have been plunged into as a result governmental failure. They quite convincingly view the government to be reneging on the commitment to working towards a better life for all that was made with the inception of the new constitutional order in the middle of the 1990’s. Instead of looking its own failures squarely in the eye and taking the required action to remedy their failures, the governing party, supported by some opposition parties, now seem to have opted for very perilous tactics.
That is to shift the blame for its long-standing failures and to target the country’s minorities. In consequence the criminalisation of whites and stoking animosity against them are now the order of the day in South Africa. The envisaged confiscation of property earned by whites is to be understood against this background. The targeting of whites is accompanied by inflammatory racial rhetoric by leading government and opposition politicians and senior public servants against our country’s white population.
This reckless behaviour clearly behoves neither a governing nor an opposition party. It is instigating dangerous racial divisions in society which is a patent threat to the public peace.
The ill-advised policies of the South African government and sheer wasting of public funds are having very harmful effects on the South African economy. The Rand, once hard currency, has been driven down the path of devaluation. South Africa now suffers from the shame of a junk credit rating, instead of the long-forgotten A-rating it once enjoyed. Investment is at a dreadful low. In contrast to a variety of African countries that are now growing rapidly, growth in South Africa is anaemic. Unemployment is soaring to the detriment of all and a fiscal crisis is ominously drawing closer.
Thus viewed, there are compelling grounds for concern about the South African situation in general, the deteriorating conditions of poor people, the fate of the Afrikaner minority and for white farmers who are bearing the brunt of this deteriorating situation. Precisely for that reason we appreciate as stated above the concern shown for our predicament.
However, aside from our gratitude for concern shown and for reaching out to us, I wish to state emphatically that we have no desire to leave our country. We Afrikaners are deeply rooted in Africa, more specifically in South Africa. This fact is encapsulated and conveyed in the name we proudly bear: “Afrikaners”. This has two concurrent implications.
First, being rooted in Africa we are committed to the well-being of Africa and to everyone that shares this land and this continent with us. We wish Africa and South Africa to prosper and its inhabitants to flourish and we are committed to happily honour our already longstanding commitment to do our humble part in achieving the aim of an Africa that is prosperous and self-confident. It is here that we want to forge ties and co-operate with our fellow Africans towards the betterment of the lives of all.
Secondly, we are not but an aggregate of individuals. We are a community, a people, with our own history, which is, as that of all other communities, one of glory, shame, failure, achievement and heroism. We have our own language, Afrikaans, that we share with many other inhabitants of South Africa and Namibia. We have a strong sense of personal liberty and for the basic freedom of our own community and a proud history of struggle for freedom and emancipation on the African continent. Our history in Africa goes back more than 350 years.
This includes the Great Trek of the 1830’s and our heroic freedom struggle against the mightiest global empire of the time from 1899 to 1902 (the Anglo-Boer War). These, among many other things, attest to our inextinguishable commitment to be ourselves and to enjoy liberty, nowhere else but under the African sun. It is here that we are to live in safety, practice our culture, speak our language and profess our religion. And it is here that we have to have the institutions – educational and otherwise – that secure the infrastructure for the life of freedom and happiness.
There are Afrikaners and other South African who over the past decades have left South Africa, not because they so much wished to do so, but often for reasons of safety and owing to deteriorating conditions and polices that deny them work and opportunity. Some of them have also returned to South Africa. Most of them maintain close ties with their families in South Africa and their fellow Afrikaners in South Africa. There are also Afrikaner communities in Australia.
We prefer them to return and we wish to contribute towards conditions conducive to that. To the extent that they do not do that, we hope them to still make their contribution towards the Afrikaner community in South Africa and to South Africa, apart from being constructive inhabitants of the countries such as Australia where they now live.
Afrikaners do not seek a relationship of tension with the South African government. However, our government’s rash policies and recklessness cause harm to our agricultural community, to Afrikaners and to the South African population in general, more in particular to the poor and marginalised. The South African government can therefore not expect its follies and failures to escape public attention and the concern of the outside world, more specifically of the countries with which we – South Africa – are enjoying close ties of a shared history, common values and relations.
We do not want South Africa, any particular community in the country or the South African government to be internationally isolated or being visited by anything harmful. On the contrary, we seek constructive relations between all role players, including the South African government.
Precisely for that reason we welcome your – the Australian government and citizenry’s – concern for our farmers and for the Afrikaner minority. We trust that international engagement with South Africa could go a long way in building sound relations with the South African government and towards healthy instead of rash governmental policies towards the South African citizenry and to any community, such as our own. Moreover, we also hope that your engagement (as well as that of any other government) with South Africa could be conducive to Afrikaners as a permanent community in Africa playing our due part in our land and continent not only to our own gain but to the benefit of all.
Prof JJ (Koos) Malan.
P.S. Kindly be informed that a copy this letter will also be made available to the media in due time.
A copy of this letter has also been delivered at the Australian High Commissioner in Pretoria.