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SA govt criticises Australia's response to land debate

14 March 2018 5:11 PM
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SA govt criticises Australia's response to land debate

Johannesburg – The South African government has criticised reports that Australia wants to offer special attention to white South African farmers, who apply for visas to travel to that country.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said on Wednesday that it was regrettable that the Australian government did not use diplomatic channels to raise its concerns.

Australia's home affairs minister Peter Dutton was quoted saying that the farmers "deserve special attention" from Australia, due to the "horrific circumstances" of land redistribution and violence.

"If you look at the footage and read the stories, you hear the accounts, it's a horrific circumstance they face," Dutton said, according to The Guardian.

"The people we're talking about want to work hard, they want to contribute to a country like Australia," he said.

"We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare. And I think these people deserve special attention and we're certainly applying that special attention now."

Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said the department would have preferred if the Australian government approached it for clarity.

"Those channels remain open and available for all governments to engage with the South African Government," he said.

The Australian High Commission in Pretoria was not immediately available for comment.

Dutton's comments came after Parliament passed a landmark motion last month to allow its Constitutional Review Committee to look at the possibility of expropriating land without compensation.

"It must be stated again that the South African president, the Minister of Land Affairs, and [the] Minister of International [Relations and Cooperation] have said in a number of public platforms, and also when engaging with stakeholders, that the process of land redistribution would be orderly, within South African laws and [take] into consideration both social and economic impact," Mabaya said.

"We call on organisations, like AfriForum who are spreading wrong information to cause panic and fear, to refrain from doing so."

Mabaya said the South African government was clear that the matter was before Parliament for it to engage on it.

"There is no reason for any government in the world to suspect that a section of South Africans is [in] danger from their own democratically-elected government. That threat does not exist," he said.

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