The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has hit back at Australia’s proposal that white South African farmers get an easy pass into the country because of the way they are treated back home.
On Wednesday, Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton said the country was considering fast-tracking visas for white farmers on humanitarian or other visa programmes.
According to Dutton, white farmers face “horrific circumstance” in South Africa, and given their drive to work hard, should have an easier time coming to Australia and integrating into its more ‘civil’ society.
The politician’s comments were met with major backlash from local and international commentators, who labeled them as racist.
It was not clear what “horrific” circumstances Dutton was referring to, but many linked them to the reports on white farm murders in the country – which gained global attention through US and UK pundits over the past few months – as well as the SA government’s recent move to make land redistribution without compensation a reality.
In an official statement on the matter, Dirco said that it was disappointed that the Australian government chose not to use the available diplomatic channels to raise concerns or to seek clarification on the land redistribution process in South Africa.
“Those channels remain open and available for all governments to engage with the South African government,” it said.
Addressing apparent fears over land reform, the department said that the process of land redistribution would be orderly, within South African laws and taking into consideration both the social and economic impact.
It also appealed to organisations such as AfriForum – who it accused of “spreading incorrect information sowing panic and fear” – to refrain from doing so.
“The South African government has been very clear and transparent on a land reform process and the matter is now before parliament. All stakeholders will be consulted and they are also encouraged to engage with parliament,” it said.
The department said that no South African “is in danger from their own democratically elected government”, and that the apparent threat Dutton spoke of does not exist.