The White Farmer murder has become a flash point in South Africa

SENEKAL, South Africa – A young white farm manager in the eastern part of the Free State province was strangled to death on a farm earlier this month, police said. Two black men were charged with murder.

During a court hearing on Friday, the police captain, while investigating, said the suspects were working in the field of livestock thieves, and it appears that their purpose was robbery rather than racial animosity.

But the assassination of farm manager Brendan Horner has become the latest flashpoint to the ethnic conflict in South Africa, where apartheid regimes fell almost years ago. Tensions are especially high in rural farming areas where whites still own most of the farms and blacks still serve as their poor laborers.

Groups representing white farmers have accused the South African government of deliberately failing to protect them. Some white activist groups say what they call “farm killings” represent the beginning of a “white genocide” aimed at driving whites out of South Africa.

Critics say this is a distorted story propagated by white beneficiaries of apartheid to increase international sympathy. They noted that violent crime is common in South Africa. The vast majority of victims are black.

Of the 21,325 murdered last year, 49 were white farmers – less than 1 percent of the country’s total, according to police figures. White South Africans make up 9 percent of the country’s 58 million citizens.

At Friday’s hearing, left-wing political party economic freedom fighters or white farmers in EFF red polo shirts and motorcyclists clashed with black protesters outside a small village court in the town of Senakal on the banks of the Sand River. Police used barbed wire to separate the groups, but at one point they were running from nose to nose – the situation failed when volunteer marshals from both sides intervened.

On a hill outside the city, white peasants waved a banner with Mr. Horner’s face and carried a white wooden cross. Some wore bulletproof vests. After reading the Bible and praying, they sang the national anthem of South Africa’s apartheid era.

Some farmers said in interviews that poor black South Africans have become more desperate due to the coronavirus epidemic that has resulted in a lockdown in South Africa and the resulting economic downturn.

“Usually they steal for food at the table, now they kill,” said Derek Meyer, a protesting farmer.

“They don’t see a big picture of inaction in South Africa,” said political critic and journalist Khani Mriguben about white farmers. Everyone is being targeted, everyone is being robbed. ”

E.F.F. The bus and minivans were chased away by farmers as supporters chased away, while some passengers sang “Kill the Boar”, a liberation-era song that has since been hated.

EFF’s founding leader, Julius Malema, a firebrand expelled from the ruling African National Congress party, told a crowd of about 2,500 people from a portable stage outside the courthouse: “We are here to fight apartheid and to die, as South Africa still Got racism. “

He has entered into long-term anger by calling for redistribution of land. In parliament, the EFF controls 44 of the 400 seats, and the majority party, the African National Congress, has been accused of moving too slowly and too cautiously over the redistribution of land.

A 2017 government survey found that white farmers control about 70 percent of the farms owned by individual owners in South Africa. Most of that land was brutally confiscated from African residents before the war. Of the vast strips of free state where Mr. Horner was killed, three-quarters of the farms belong to white South Africans, while Black South Africans own only one percent, the survey found.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday spoke out about Mr Horner’s assassination, expressing horror and sympathy, but warning against killing white farmers by falsely equating ethnic cleansing. “They are not genocide. They are acts of criminality and this kind of behavior must happen. ‘

“What happened in Seneca shows how easily the Tinderbox of racial hatred is lit.”

In the world with the fifth highest murder rate in the world, Mr. Ramaphosa has used his address to name murder victims in recent months, especially women killed during the lockdown. He noted that Mr Horner was killed in a single week in South Africa, in which three young black men were shot in the car.

But the violent protests over Mr. Horner’s assassination drew immediate and outside attention.

On Oct. October, several hundred white protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Seneca where both suspects were present for the hearing. Some protesters set fire to a police vehicle and stormed a courthouse with cells demanding that the accused be handed over to them.

Andre Pianar, a 51-year-old White businessman, was later arrested and charged with attempted murder, malicious damage to property and public violence. He was denied bail.

Descendants of the White Dutch and Huginot colonies of South Africa, a large advocacy group of Africans, African nurses, the Afriforum, have led international efforts to draw attention to their notorious claims that large numbers of white farmers have been systematically pushed to their land. Has been.

In 2018, Afriforum’s deputy chief executive, Ernst Roths, appeared with host Tucker Carlson, President Trump, in a segment on Fox News in the United States. Said on Twitter is directing his secretary of state to investigate what he calls “mass killings” of white farmers.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Roets said the government does not protect white farmers: “It is very clear that doing anything for them is not a priority.”

In the courtroom on Friday, the judge was flung by four armed police officers, government ministers occupying a front bench and journalists packed into the room.

The country’s police minister, Bhiki Selle, who visited the city earlier in the week in an effort to defuse tensions, noted in an interview that four people had been killed in the area since April. .

“One of them is this young white man,” he said.

Lance Chotel reported from Seneca and Mohika Mark from Johannesburg.