South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday appealed for calm after pressure groups representing the country’s white minority claimed that an increase in deadly attacks on farms was ethnic cleansing, reported Al Jazeera.
President Ramaphosa’s appeal came after a group of mainly of white farmers rushed into a court on Wednesday during the hearing of two Black suspects accused of killing a 22-year-old farm manager.
Andre Pienaar, 52, who was the lead instigator of the rioters, was subsequently jailed on terrorism charges on Friday.
In his weekly newsletter to the nation, the South African president rejected the claims that farm attacks were racially motivated.
He characterized the attacks as a sad reminder that the country was still recovering from its dark past under the apartheid regime, which ended in the early 1990s.
“We would be naive to assume that race relations in farming communities have been harmonious since the advent of democracy,” Ramaphosa wrote in the weekly newsletter. “Unless this is addressed in an open and honest manner, unless we are prepared to engage in dialogue, this will remain a festering wound that threatens social cohesion.”
The South African president said the incident of white farmers storming a court to attack two Black suspects resulted in wounds that go back many generations.
He said the incident showed “just how easily the tinderbox of race hatred can be ignited.”
The president has appealed the people to resist any attempts to use crime on farms to mobilise communities along racial lines.
He also pointed out that black and poor South Africans are the main victims of violent crime in the country. He added that the killings on farms are not ethnic cleansing and are neither genocidal, but are acts of criminality and must be treated as such.
Notably, roughly 70 percent of privately owned farmland in South Africa is owned by whites, who make up less than 9 percent of the country’s population of 58 million.