SA govt 'over the top' on white farmer immigration response - Australian deputy PM

2018-03-16 09:56
Lindiwe Sisulu. (File, Beeld)

Lindiwe Sisulu. (File, Beeld)

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Cape Town – Australia's deputy prime minister says his country has good relations with South Africa, amid a storm over immigration. 

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the South African government's demand that home affairs minister Peter Dutton retract comments on fast-tracking visas for white South African farmers was "over the top", according to an ABC News report.

READ: SA govt criticises Australia's response to land debate

The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said it was regrettable that the Australian government did not raise the issue via diplomatic channels.

"Those channels remain open and available for all governments to engage with the South African government," said department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya.

Diplomatic demarche

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on Thursday issued a diplomatic demarche – or course of action – to Australian High Commissioner in SA Adam McCarthy, to demand a retraction of the comments made by Dutton.

"Peter Dutton has made those comments in good faith and you know, I appreciate it's a delicate situation there but I think it's a little bit rich to always go asking ministers to retract comments," said McCormack.

READ: Australian home affairs minister to consider fast-tracking visas for white South African farmers

Dutton announced that he was looking at ways that white South African farmers could be granted visas or humanitarian programmes, according to a Guardian report.

"Let's be frank, if we see in this case - people who are being thrown off their land, being persecuted, I've read of people being shot, rapes, all sorts of different things - then I do believe that there's a role to be played," said Dutton.

His comments drew support from cabinet minister Steve Ciobo and Labor senator Kim Carr, with the former saying the situation in SA was a "cause for concern", ABC News reported.

Dutton's comments echoed efforts by some Australian politicians who have been arguing that white South African farmers bring relevant skills and integrate well into Australian society.

"It certainly wouldn't hurt to allocate a number of places to people who fit in well and will contribute to the country," said Ian Goodenough, who argued that white farmers should be given refugee status in Australia.

READ Ramaphosa: Not revolutionary to tell people to occupy land

Mabaya blamed AfriForum for spreading fear and false information on land expropriation, arguing that the process was before Parliament and all stakeholders would be consulted.

"There is no reason for any government anywhere in the world to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically-elected government. That threat simply does not exist."

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declined to address the issue and insisted that his country had a "non-discriminatory humanitarian programme", ABC News reported.

President Cyril Ramaphosa warned in Parliament against illegal land invasions, and urged political parties to contribute to the debate on land reform in SA.

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Read more on:    australia  |  land expropriation  |  racism

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