IOL 22 January 2020

Johannesburg – Afriforum wants the UN forum dealing with human rights violations to act against President Cyril Ramaphosa and former International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

On Tuesday, the civil rights organisation lodged a complaint with the UN Special Rapporteur’s office accusing Ramaphosa and Sisulu of allegedly failing to recognise their body as a “human rights defender”.

Ernst Roets – AfriForum head of policy action – made the claim in a letter he wrote on Tuesday to UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst in which he accused Ramaphosa and Sisulu of allegedly impairing the work that AfriForum was doing “to promote human and civil rights” in South Africa.

“This follows Ramaphosa’s statement on farm murders and land grabs in September 2018, during a visit to the USA,” Roets said.

“The charge is aimed at Ramaphosa’s reaction to US President Donald Trump’s tweet in August 2018 that Trump had instructed his secretary of state to investigate land grabs and farm murders in South Africa. In reaction to the tweet, Ramaphosa said in an interview on Bloomberg (an international news channel) that Trump had been misinformed about the situation in South Africa.”

Expanding on Ramaphosa’s remarks, he said the SA president had insisted: “There are no killings of farmers, or white farmers, in South Africa. There is no land grab in South Africa.”

According to Afriforum, Ramaphosa’s statements came after AfriForum’s visit to the US in May 2018 to create awareness of the South African government’s policy of expropriation without compensation (and associated land grabs), as well as farm murders.

“Shortly after AfriForum’s trip, the then Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Lindiwe Sisulu, responded to AfriForum’s liaison tour to the USA by accusing the US president and AfriForum of spreading ‘blatant lies’ and ‘misinformation’ about South Africa,” Roets said.

In his letter, he asked Forst to, among other things, “Obtain a commitment from Ramaphosa and the South African government that it will effectively protect AfriForum as a human rights defender; hold Ramaphosa and the government responsible for alleged attempts at discrediting AfriForum’s efforts to raise international awareness about gross human rights violations, particularly against minorities; and request Ramaphosa and Sisulu retract their statements on an international platform.”

Roets said: “The first step in addressing these issues is to admit that they exist.” It was very worrying that the South African government ignored these issues locally, but it was unacceptable for the president to completely deny the existence of these crises in the international sphere.

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