21:18 GMT20 October 2020
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    AfriForum – a South African civil rights organization, which just received a consultative status at the United Nations, was granted a permission to send its representatives to the UN’s New York, Geneva and Vienna offices.

    The watchdog, which is headquartered in the Gauteng province of South Africa, focuses on protecting the rights of Boer and Afrikaner white minority groups and is currently in opposition to the Rainbow Nation's African National Congress party. According to AfriForum’s Head of Policy and Action Ernst Roets, international recognition is a big and long-awaited victory for his NGO.   

    Sputnik: It took almost a decade for your organization to register with the United Nations. What opportunities would the registration give you, and why did it take such a long time for AfriForum to get this status?

    Ernst Roets: Well, the second part – why did it take so long, - because the South African government took some deliberate steps to prevent us from registering, and they even said why. They said they think (or they believe) AfriForum  - and that’s their words, - is “too arrogant”, and that we “talk too much” – that’s what they said. And therefore, they regard that as a problem, and South African government said they tried to prevent us from registering.

    In terms of what opportunities it provides – it provides us with access to a variety of meetings that we didn’t have access to prior, and not only can we attend many of these meetings, we also have the opportunity to do oral presentations and to submit reports about issues that we deal with, and also, a lot of informal opportunities. In other words, at these meetings you get to meet people, and you get to build networks, and liaise with different governments, with officials and experts at the UN, with journalists and so forth. So, there are a lot of opportunities that open up for us as a result of this.

    ​Sputnik: You said that South African officials previously regarded AfriForum as a “problem”, but it’s also known that your organization often paid them with the same coin in the past, being vocal critics of the ANC and of the government on many issues – from human right violations to land reform. Does it mean that now, as the obstacles for international recognition are gone, you entered a different era in your relations with the government, and there is some kind of domestic political “truce” at play?

    Ernst Roets: No, I wouldn’t say that. I think the reason why we were registered is not because the South African government wanted us to register, or accepted it . I think it’s because they weren’t able to keep us out forever. There are still serious disagreements. We are concerned about way, in which South Africa is governed, about the ruling party’s perception of what the democracy is. And what we see in South Africa is political domination – it’s one group trying to dominate the rest. So, no, I don’t think there is some form of a “truce”, or something like that. We intend to use these platforms to raise awareness about farm murders, about expropriation without compensation and so forth.

    Sputnik: You mentioned farm murders, which remain one of the biggest threats for Boer and Afrikaner communities. One such case is the recent death of Brendin Horner – a farmer who was reportedly stabbed and strangled on his property, with suspects being eventually detained, and with other farmers storming the courthouse where the two detainees were held. It all happened just several days ago. Your NGO often steps in to help survivors of farm attacks and to prevent new ones by patrolling farms. In your opinion, what has to be done to stop farm murders completely?

    Ernst Roets: Well, to stop them completely, we need to big picture solution, which can be divided in two broad categories. The first is the political solution. I think it will imply a cultural change in South Africa, and among others – a cultural change, or political change within the ruling party, because what’s happening is – we have a ruling party, which treats farmers, especially white farmers as “second-class citizens”, who romanticize violence committed against these farmers, they sing songs about killing them. And when they argue that it’s their right to talk about how these farmers have to be killed, and then they pretend that this has no connection to events on the ground.

    So, there’s a political side of the argument. But then there is a practical side, which isn’t really government’s fault, which is something that lies within the community. And that is that people must be more organized, they must have community safety structures, they must be more vigilant, and they must be able not only to respond to these attacks, but also to prevent them from happening by simply being more visible, being in contact with each other, being more prepared.

    Sputnik: Besides the wave of farm attacks, there was another disaster, which probably tested the preparedness of Boer and Afrikaner communities this year, as South Africa was also hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University, by 9 October there were 686,891 coronavirus infections and 17,409 virus-related deaths nationwide. How did the pandemic, and the lockdown imposed by the government, affect Boer and Afrikaner people?

    Ernst Roets: I think, in a sense, this has proven how Afrikaner, or the Boer community is able to look after themselves. I can list you many examples of people caring for each other, delivering food parcels, and so forth. I think, the way, in which it affected the community the most - or one of the ways, is that lockdown rules were extremely strict, some describe them as the strictest in the world, and if not the strictest – one of the strictest. There were a lot of job losses, and companies had to close down. And what made it worse – it’s not because of the virus, but because of lockdown – the government said that they have this fund to support businesses that are struggling as the result of the lockdown, but they are going to use race as a determining factor on who will be supported and who wouldn’t.

    They actively said that if the company is black-owned – they will support the company, if it isn’t – they won’t. So, I think in that way the lockdown was extremely discriminatory. I think the word “disgusting” is appropriate about the way in which they dealt with it – to have such a strict economic lockdown and, “so, we’re going to only help one race of people because of the color of their skin". So, in that way it was very bad for race relations and for trusting government, but it was also bad economically. 

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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