The king and Kallie Kriel: Strange (and dangerous) bed fellows

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AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel. Picture: Theana Breugem
AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel. Picture: Theana Breugem

There is an emoticon depicting a person with a hand over his/her face as a sign of exasperation. Last week it illustrated perfectly how I felt when I read that AfriForum is now in cahoots with King Goodwill Zwelithini.

According to AfriForum’s Kallie Kriel there is a need to work together on issues of "joint interest" such as the expropriation of land. So he (together with Flip Buys from Solidariteit and Danie Goosen of FAK) joined the king’s elaborate birthday celebration and then had a private meeting or audience with him after.

Politics certainly make for strange bed fellows. Quite rightly everyone involved in the meeting, including the king, was widely criticised on social media.

I completely agree with those who think that this cooperation is a very bad idea – for both sides. Surely it will not be in the king’s interest (particularly when it comes to the issue of land reform) to associate himself with a civil society organisation which is largely, if not almost completely, white and has seriously annoyed the governing party with its strategies both domestically and internationally. I suspect that the king is well aware of that and that AfriForum is possibly overstating the seriousness and extent of the cooperation.

The question is, what is in it for AfriForum? Their comments in the media suggest that they believe by jumping on the royal bandwagon they will strengthen their hand when it comes to land expropriation. In my view they could not be more wrong.

They should remember that the Ingonyama Trust came about when the apartheid government transferred about 2.8 million hectares into the king’s trust days before the 1994 elections to be controlled by him. Surely it does not serve AfriForum’s cause to align themselves with a transfer of land by an illegitimate government – a transfer that many would now argue is morally and legally suspect. It seems obvious that such an alignment only strengthens the argument of those who claim that white farmers (many whom AfriForum represents) acquired the land illegitimately through colonial rule.

There are serious questions about the constitutionality of the Ingonyama Trust. If they are proven to be correct, it can surely not be in AfriForum’s interest to be associated with this issue.

It is also important to remember that the Ingonyama Trust is a particularly sensitive issue for the ANC and the president. If the matter is handled incorrectly it has the potential to further destabilise KwaZulu-Natal with very possibly more violence and huge human loss. It can also have negative electoral implications for the governing party.

To use an Afrikaans expression: "AfriForum moenie krap waar dit nie jeuk nie." (Don’t scratch places that are not itching.)

Everyone is aware that Ramaphosa has recently been at pains to reassure the king around the issue of land reform. So for AfriForum to now be sticking their noses in there is a very bad idea. I am sure that it would have gone down very badly with the president and the ANC.

"So, what?" I hear many AfriForum members ask.

The point is that it is the governing party that will ultimately decide what will happen to land reform – not the EFF or any other opposition party, or for that matter any monarch, with or without AfriForum’s cooperation.

So, to state the obvious (yet again): If AfriForum is serious about getting a positive outcome for their members they should build relations with the governing party, not annoy them.

They should stop lying overseas about what the ANC is saying. They should stop with their campaigns both domestically and internationally that suggest that whites are persecuted and victims. They should also not meddle in matters of which they clearly don’t understand the full political implications, such as the Ingonyama Trust.

The announcement last week by Ramaphosa again showed how much pressure he is under when it comes to this issue, not only from the majority of people who want land, but also the radicals in his own party. It is therefore now more crucial than ever for AfriForum to quietly built relations with the ANC and figure out a way to give Ramaphosa and the more moderate side of the ANC a win on land reform.

It is time for AfriForum’s members to wake up. If they are truly interested in a positive outcome for land restitution in this country they must get the leaders of their organisation to change tack.

The strategies that they have been using continue to seriously damage relationships with the majority of people in this country and are playing into every stereotype that Africans have of whites and Afrikaners.

Those of us (of all races) who have been trying to build bridges for decades are exasperated by these actions, because every time they make the headlines we know that they have further damaged race relations as well as placing under further threat those rights which AfriForum claims to fight for.

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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