Varsity prof on AfriForum's 'angry' Roets: 'Threat of violence, hanging not acceptable'

North West University associate professor Elmien du Plessis on Monday said she was saddened that AfriForum's Ernst Roets had decided to respond to her tweets on farm murders with anger.

According to Huffington Post, Roets launched an attack on Du Plessis on Saturday after she tweeted that AfriForum's statistics did not support the organisation's claims of an ongoing genocide against white people, or even white farmers, in South Africa.

Roets, who is currently in the United States to highlight farm murders, then responded to Du Plessis by posting a video in which he said she was making a mockery of the matter. 

Towards the end of the video, Roets launched into a veiled threat. 

He quoted Victor Klemperer, who was a survivor of the Holocaust.

"If one day the situation were reversed and the fate of the vanquished were in my hands, then I would let all the ordinary folk go and then some of the leaders who might have after all had horrible intentions and not name what they were doing but I would have all the intellectuals strung up and all the professors, three feet, higher than the rest. 

"They would be left hanging from the lampposts for as long as it was compatible with hygiene… Of course, we have no intention to harm anyone. We have no intention to harm you for making these statements. 

"We don't even have an intention to debate you. The only reason why we do is to ensure that rational truth seeking people are not misled by the hatred and the condescending shrugging off of the fact that we are being attacked, and not only that, but we are being tortured…" 

Speaking shortly after her column on the matter was published by News24, Du Plessis said: "Every person’s emotions are real to them, and we should hold the space for one another, and acknowledge that. What I saw in the video was anger. I can hold that space for him to be angry. 

"It saddens me that Mr Roets responds to someone who puts forward a different perspective on the discussion on farm murders with disdain, stating that they are not interested in a debate."

Du Plessis said, while she could tolerate his angry tirade, the threat of violence was not acceptable.  

"Invoking the spectre of violence and hanging is wildly inappropriate. I am also not sure if he can compare himself to a Holocaust victim.

"I understand that he walked back some of his more heinous comments, but the context of his words before and after the limited walk back does not sit comfortably.

"He made an active choice to read the quotation and to put the video on YouTube, with the quote. And that will be his responsibility to bear." 

In her column, Du Plessis explained her views on farm murders. 

READ THE FULL COLUMN: AfriForum's own farm murder stats don't support their claims

"In my opinion, the information that AfriForum disseminates into the public domain on a variety of platforms is, at times, misleading.

"My interest in the debate stems from the fact that in certain groups the conversation on land reform in general, but in the context of expropriation without compensation specifically, inevitably leads to farm murders," she writes.

"I find there is a curious correlation and conflation of these issues, which is why I try and listen carefully to those arguments. I went to some lengths to genuinely try and understand AfriForum's position on these issues, and even attended one of their events on expropriation.

"This is my concern. Some commentators suggest that instead of criticising AfriForum, efforts should be aimed at government (which, in turn, would take the wind out of AfriForum's sails). While I can agree with this to some extent, the fact remains: social cohesion in this country is pulling at the seams. In the absence of a well-functioning government, the citizenry needs to step up, and it will require co-operation."  

READ: Farm attacks and murders: This is SA's most deadly province for farmers

When contacted by News24 on Sunday, Roets said: "The purpose of the video was to provide the facts regarding farm murders and what it is that we want to achieve, in order to ensure that the public is not misled by some in the media who are attacking our campaign based on straw man arguments and red herrings."

In March, Police Minister Bheki Cele released statistics on farm attacks and murders dating back to 2012, which showed that, while attacks had increased, the number of murders reported had decreased year-on-year. 

Cele was responding to a parliamentary question from the Freedom Front Plus's Pieter Groenewald.

He provided a breakdown of farm attack statistics dating back to the 2012/13 financial year.

The figures show that, over the past six years, there had been 3 059 attacks reported to police (averaging 510 attacks a year), in which 338 people (roughly 56 a year) were killed.

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