The Dutch turn against the ANC

Heinrich Matthee writes on the recent parliamentary resolution condemning EWC in SA

Infringing human rights: Dutch parliament condemns expropriation policy in South Africa

The Dutch Parliament accepted a motion on 1 July 2019 to condemn the policy of South Africa’s government favouring expropriation without compensation as being contrary to international human rights.

The motion statedthat both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter of Human Rights forbid arbitrary deprivation of property, especially on the basis of skin color”. It also “calls on the government, bilaterally and in international fora, to make a clear statement that the intended expropriation of white farmers in South Africa, without compensation, is contrary to human rights, and to put pressure on South Africa to abandon it.”

The motion was submitted by Martijn van Helvert, a Christian Democrat (CDA) Member of Parliament, and Kees van der Staaij, the leader of the State Reformed Party (SGP). The Dutch Second Chamber, comparable to the Lower House in the UK, passed the motion by 86 votes for and 64 votes against.

The parties who supported the motion included the ruling liberal VVD party of prime minister Mark Rutte, the Christian Democrats, two nationalist parties, the PVV of Geert Wilders and the Forum for Democracy of Thierry Baudet, Plus50, a small party representing the interests of older citizens, the conservative Christian SGP and the liberal Christian Christian Union party.

In many ways, the decision by Dutch parliament is a historic one. The Dutch parliament is the first Western legislative assembly to have censured the African National Congress (ANC) in this way. The Netherlands have close historical and cultural links with South Africa and its communities. During the ANC’s underground struggle, it received considerable support from Dutch actors, some of whom are still influential in politics, academia and the media. The Dutch government also was a strong supporter of the negotiated settlement between the ANC and the National Party in the 1990s.

Dutch engagement and NGO activities

Afriforum has in various ways been informing American, European and also Dutch policy makers since 2018 about the ANC’s expropriation policies. However, Dutch parliamentarians have also pro-actively engaged to find out from analysts and other sources about the ANC’s policies and their impact on international human rights and Dutch interests. Shifts within parties and the rise of non-centrist parties in the Dutch political constellation during the provincial elections in March 2019 have contributed to support for the motion among centrist parties.

Already on 27 March 2018, Van Helvert presented written questions in the Dutch Parliament about “the discrimination of, expropriation of and murder sprees against white farmers in South Africa”. On 29 June 2018, Van Helvert presented further questions about “the growing uncertainty about property and investment in South Africa”. On 14 December 2018, Van Helvert presented written questions in Parliament about South Africa’s speeding towards expropriation without compensation.

Human rights at risk

In 2018, the foundation of former president Thabo Mbeki already stated in a leaked internal paper that the ANC has abandoned its historical values on non-racialism through its framing of the land reform debate as one of black versus white. Political economist Moeletsi Mbeki said in this regard. "This is not about land. It is about the loss of votes by the ANC. And the ANC and its little son, the EFF, they think they can bring back the voters who are abandoning the ANC by attacking the white population."

During recent discussions of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Van Helvert stated that the involvement of far-right groups had unfortunately framed the issue in racial terms. Mainstream politicians were therefore careful to deal with this very real infringement of human rights, but they could not avoid doing so

Stef Blok (VVD), the Dutch minister of foreign affairs, commented during the same committee discussions:“If that law were adopted, it would affect a human right, the right to property.” To what extent will other European and US political actors now put pressure on South Africa’s ANC government to stop its infringement of civil and human rights?

Dr. Heinrich Matthee is a political analyst for international business in the Middle East and Africa and based in the Netherlands.


[1] For a broader in-depth analysis of ANC rule, see The ANC’s ‘toxic legacy’, factional struggles and a renewed hybrid regime,