There are occasional lovely moments when a politician’s carefully arranged façade of decency and respectability is stripped away to reveal their inner person with all its ugly racism and stupidity on display.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton provided just such a spectacle this week when he spoke about violence against white South African farmers and legislation passed in the South African parliament to give the state power to confiscate white-owned farms without compensation.
Dutton said they deserved “special attention” and he was looking into whether Australia could help them with visas or humanitarian programs.
He said they “deserve special attention” from Australia due to the “horrific circumstances” of land seizures and violence. “I do think, on the information that I’ve seen, people do need help and they need help from a civilised country like ours,” Dutton said.
Dutton’s concern for white South African farmers has never extended to black South Africans who often face appalling violence when confronting corruption and cronyism within the ruling ANC. And neither does it extend to destitute black South Africans who were stripped of their land under racist policies under which wealthy white South Africans were given the spoils of subjugation and colonialism.
If we took Dutton at his word we’d expect him to champion aboriginal people who have had their land stripped from them without compensation in Australia’s ugly history of racist suppression and genocide. But he isn’t. Dutton’s sympathies are exclusively with his white “kith and kin” in South Africa who perpetrated against black South Africans the same policies his government upholds against Aboriginal people.
New Zealand Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel was caught out similarly when violence threatened white Zimbabwean farmers fifteen years ago. She announced the Labour government would fast-track immigration for white Zimbabwean farmers under racist attacks but there was no such announcement to fast-track immigration for black Zimbabwean political refugees who were under far greater threat of violence and persecution than white farmers.
Meanwhile South Africa’s clumsy legislation to redistribute land is in response to growing anger from poor South Africans at the failure of the ANC to lead economic and social reform for which they were elected 24 years ago. It’s a two-decade record of failure as the ANC leadership chose to make common cause with capitalism and, in the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, “stopped the gravy train just long enough to climb on”.
Real change in South Africa will not come from the likes of former resistance leader turned uber capitalist and now South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, but from working people organising in their unions and communities across the country.