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PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa’s government has been restrained over Donald Trump’s ignorant and provocative tweet about white farmers having their land seized and/or being murdered in large numbers.
Back in pre-Twitter days, diplomatic channels would be used to request information about possible concerns in friendly countries.
Trump’s embarrassing promotion of Murdoch propaganda network Fox News to the status of authoritative source of information is exacerbated by his public instruction to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”
The US president takes these allegations as facts and renders support to South Africa’s far-right AfriForum group, which hankers for the days of apartheid and claims there is a campaign to kill or drive out white people.
This “white genocide” trope is picked up by the US alt-right, neonazis and other unhinged racists who cannot believe their luck in having their lurid fantasies authenticated by the White House occupant.
Violent crime is a major problem in South Africa and its farmers are not immune to it, but the level of attacks has halved since a peak in 2001-2, with the rate of murders just a third of what it was in 1997-8, with 47 farmers killed in 2017-8.
Too high, for sure, but the reality is that murder rates for whites, whether rural or urban, are far lower than those in poor black townships.
Unfortunately, neither Fox nor Trump allows facts to intrude into their narratives, but they and, more particularly, their apologists should appreciate the dangerous effects of such myths.
Trump refused to denounce the white-supremacist hate-mongers a year ago when a Unite the Right rally, composed of heavily armed neonazis, Ku Klux Klan members and alt-right supporters, culminated in the murder of counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer, when a self-identified white supremacist mowed her down.
Offered the opportunity to condemn the prophets of hate, Trump ducked it, drivelling on about there being good and bad people on both sides.
South Africa has nothing to learn from the Trump administration about combating violence or discrimination.
The president has still not accepted that “black lives matter” and treats sports people who signify their disquiet by kneeling during the national anthem as the enemy within, instead of tacking the substantive problem.
President Ramaphosa ought to give some consideration to authorising Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to “closely study” the phenomenon of white cops in the US shooting black people without justification and report back with her findings.
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