President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended his utterances during a Bloomberg interview this week in which he told a reporter there was “no killing of farmers or white farmers in SA”.
The statement was harshly criticised by lobby groups that construed it as a denial of the deaths of dozens of farmers annually at the hands of burglars.
Groups such as AgriSA and AfriForum have supported the far-right narrative that white farmers are being targeted and brutally killed because of their race and that the rate of such killings were at crisis levels.
Ramaphosa, who is in New York at the UN General Assembly, made the statement during an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday after being asked whether he discussed the issue with President Donald Trump during his visit.
He replied that he had not discussed it, but he disagreed with Trump’s tweet last month ordering US government intervention into alleged land grabs and the murder of white farmers in South Africa.
“There are no killings of farmers or white farmers in SA, there is no land grab in South Africa. We are in the process of discussing land reform,” he said.
But after an outcry over the exchange, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said Ramaphosa was simply dismissing Trump’s referral to large-scale killing of white farmers and not necessarily denying that some white farmers were victims of violent crimes.
“There is no programme of large-scale killings of white farmers in SA. Yes, there is crime and it happens in all our communities; no one in SA is targeting whites or farmers.”
Analyst Ralph Mathekga said Ramaphosa’s on-air fumble was symptomatic of the government’s lack of a communication strategy for the case for expropriating land.
The Institute of Race Relations accused the president of lying.
“Data produced by the police shows 62 farmers and farm workers were murdered in the 2017-18 financial year. The same police data shows that 353 such murders occurred since 2012-13.”
AgriSA decried Ramaphosa’s statements, citing farm murders as a growing problem.