Australia, Opinion

Sunday’s farmer solidarity march for human rights, not race

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – In the one week it took to organise Sunday’s mass march through Brisbane in solidarity with South Africa’s embattled farmers, four more were brutally murdered.

For many in the crowd of over 1,000 people marching from Roma Street to Queensland’s State Parliament House on Sunday, the march was personal. In our group of five, one had recently attended the funeral of an Eastern Cape relative brutally tortured. The elderly woman, a stalwart in her rural community, died of injuries too graphic to relay. Her housemate succumbed to equally severe injuries, and her husband was left for dead – beaten, bound, burnt and gagged. He miraculously survived.

My farm connection has more romantic roots. I spent the first few years of my life living on an agricultural college in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. I later attended the local school, and my boarder friends all came from surrounding farming communities. My German-descent friend, Ute taught me to ride horses on her parent’s farm. My grandfather had been a Karoo farmer, and my dear late dad worked in agriculture all his life. As a child, I learned that drought meant tough times for farmers. I learned that when shop potato prices were low, the ‘poor farmers’ were getting nothing for theirs. I gained an appreciation for the growers of the produce that landed on our plates and the hard slog it took to get it there.

Today, there is nothing romantic about being a white farmer in South Africa. Drought and low potato prices pale into insignificance when lives are at stake. Of course, no one can ignore the fact that farmers are not the only victims of crime. In fact, for my friend directly affected, attending the march was more about standing up for human rights. “I see this as a human rights march, not a political or racially motivated march. I stand in solidarity with all those who have suffered through violent crime,” he said.

And yet, it is hard to overlook the stark reality that white South African farmers appear to be systematically targeted. There is no politically correct sugar-coating of the increasingly depraved, torturous details of farm murders.

Figures of exactly how many have lost their lives are often refuted, but there are a reported 74 murders from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017. Figures escalate weekly.

Repeated stories of women raped in front of their young children don’t make for pleasant dinner conversation. Nor does the story of a 12-year-old boy scalded in a hot bath and his throat slit after both parents were brutally slaughtered. Or of a two-year-old toddler being shot dead. It’s more comfortable to avoid reading news feeds or to skip the unimaginably bloodied, gory pictures posted on social media. Far easier to bury our head in the sand. The march, whatever the practical outworking, at least showed sorely lacking support for the silently suffering minority. It also was an opportunity to say thank you to politicians such as immigration minister, Peter Dutton for hearing their plight.

Political persecution if proven by Australia needs to be investigated. We’re not talking race but about doing the right thing about existing laws of political persecution – Andrew Laming, LNP representative for Bowman

As one of the organisers, Arno Nel said: “Violent crime is rampant in all communities in South Africa. Attacks on farmers are racially oriented, whites in particular in these rural areas face persecution perpetuated by the ‘Kill the Boer, kill the farmer’ slogan (by EFF’s Julius Malema and government commitment to take farmland without compensation). This has left white minorities fearing for their lives … We are deeply aware of the privilege of living in this country and hope to extend the same to our farmers.”

Andrew Laming, the LNP representative for Bowman, was equally impassioned. He spoke about being alerted to SA farmers’ plight after seeing an 87-year-old farmer beaten beyond recognition on his social media feed. ”Today, one month ago, I was just another politician vaguely aware what was happening, and then a thread popped up, and the story behind the photo had to be shared. Since then it has been shared ten times every minute 24 hours a day—once a second in every country that has Facebook.

“Political persecution if proven by Australia needs to be investigated. We’re not talking race but about doing the right thing about existing laws of political persecution,” he said.

Independent crossbench senator Fraser Anning, was equally supportive. He said he was behind solutions to give white South African farmers preference for refugee visas, calling violence towards white farmers in the country a “genocide”.

“The ‘Kill the boer, kill the farmer’ slogan promoted by parliamentarians has left white minority groups fearing for their lives.”

© Lois Nicholls 2018

Perth will also host ‘A March for South Africa‘ on Sunday, April 8 at 11:45 AM – 1:30 PM UTC+08 Cnr Barrack St & St George’s Terrace, Perth WA 6000