No, Katie Hopkins, there is no white genocide in South Africa

Every murder in the country is a tragedy. But most don’t happen on white farms, or even in white areas. 

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A search of the term “refugee” on the UK government’s petition site produces 27 results. Five of those petitions refer to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. Another five demand the country stops accepting refugees, even ignore international law to do so if needs be, and deport those that are here. A few refer to accepting more refugees.

And seven specifically call for the government to grant white South Africans refugee status in the UK.

Six of those seven petitions have been rejected with the government response: “People can already claim asylum if they have left their country and are unable to go back because they fear persecution.” The final open petition has just eight signatures. Nevertheless, the sheer quantity reveals how the idea that  the white minority population in South Africa is being persecuted and killed, while its government is either indifferent or supportive of the action, is spreading. 

The belief recently got celebrity backing when the controversial columnist Katie Hopkins visited South Africa to report on “anti-white racism” and farm murders. Hopkins is not previously known for compassion towards refugees, having labelled asylum seekers “cockroaches” and suggested Britain should meet refugee boats with gunships to keep them out of the UK.

Now, though, it seems, she has found a group of deserving refugees. The idea of white genocide in South Africa has gained traction, following an amendment brought to the South African Parliament by the left-wing opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), This advocated amending the constitution to bring about land expropriation without compensation. It was swiftly interpreted in the international alt-right media as the start of ethnic cleansing. 

The idea is beginning to permeate the mainstream right too. In Australia, where many white South African went after the fall of apartheid, the home affairs minister Peter Dutton wants to fast-track white farmers’ visa applications to the country on humanitarian grounds, claiming they need special attention. Yet Australia is notorious for its ill-treatment of asylum seekers – Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) has petitioned the international Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate whether the county’s detention centres for refugees is a crime against humanity. A vehemently anti-refugee place has suddenly found some refugees they like.

Yet the figures do not support the claim of white genocide. Farm murders do occur in South Africa, but the year April 2001 to March 2002 was the most violent, with 140 murders and 1,069 attacks, according to the South African Police Service (SAPS). This was followed by a general decline, and in 2015-16 when there were 58 murders and 519 attacks on farms. Despite a slight spike last year, to 74 murders and 638 attacks, the rate remains significantly below the violence seen at the beginning of the century. The figure then dropped again for 2017-18 to 47 murders and 561 attacks according to Pieter Groenewald, leader of the conservative Afrikaner party Freedom Front Plus. This suggests farm murder is not a new or increasing problem.

It is trickier to monitor the rate of murder on farms, compared to other areas of the country. Last year, Groenewald claimed in parliament, the murder rate on farms was 133 per 100,000 – far more than the nation’s average of 34.1. However Africa Check, a non-profit organisation that scrutinises and checks figures used and claims made across the continent, questioned how accurate that figure is, since it relies on 2007 census data for the number of farmers, which does not include family members, workers and visitors. By contrast, the murder count does include these groups. Africa Check calculated that if all these family members and employees were to be included, it would bring the number of people on farms up substantially, which in turn would push the murder rate down to 5.6 per 100,000 in 2015-16 – significantly below the national average.

AfricaCheck went further though, as the figure quoted by Groenewald also didn’t include farmers on small holdings, non-commercial farms and those with a turnover of less than R300,000 a year. In fact, when these people are included, Africa Check calculated the number of people to live in households involved in agriculture to be more than 11 million. Using that population figure, then the farm murder rate drops to just 0.4 murders per 100,000 people.

This should not be taken as a definitive figure for farm murders. What it does show, though, is that it is impossible to sufficiently calculate such a figure, since the terms are too vague and the data and populations difficult to define. Yet figures are being deliberately thrown around to manufacture a narrative of crime against white farmers. 

In fact, the police do not collect data on the race of victims of farm attacks. The most recent analysis on the subject was done by the Crime Information Analysis Centre (CIAC) in 2003. It found that of the 1,398 victims of farm attacks in 2001, 61.6 per cent were white and 33.3 per cent were black. Although this data is old, it indicates that farm murders do not exclusively target white victims.

In 2002, again working with data that is now very old, the CIAC analysed the motive of farm attacks, where it was clear. According to this analysis, 89.3 per cent were motivated by robbery, while 7.1 per cent were intimidation related and just 2 per cent were racially or politically driven. Coupled with the previous race figures, this suggests that during the height of farm attacks at the turn of the century, the perpetrators were opportunistic robbers attacking isolated properties, and the race of the victims tended to reflect the race of ownership.

South Africa’s high murder rate, of 34.1 per 100,000 people varies significantly across the nation. Other areas where white people tend to live, such as city suburbs, are much safer than the townships where a lot of black people live. This suggests the problem is not genocide, but crime. 

Cape Town, the country’s tourist, legislative and murder capital, is a case in point. The Urban Safety Reference Group puts its murder rate at above 60 people per 100,000, but the discrepancy in where murders are being committed shows how its white residents are far from being targeted.

During that 2016-2017 period, a police station in Khayelitscha, one of Cape Town’s main townships with a mostly black population, recorded 179 murders. That station officially services a population of 154,362 people, though it may well be larger, given the difficulties in monitoring informal settlements. Based on those figures,  it would have a murder rate of 116 per 100,000, which is not far off the most pessimistic figure given for farm murders by Groenewald.

Elsewhere in Cape Town, over the same period, the affluent, predominately white suburbs of Sea Point and Hout Bay had only three and four murders respectively. Since those police stations deal with populations of just 24,808 and 33,287 respectively, this gives the suburbs a murder rate of 12 per 100,000. A difference in murder rate between the predominately wealthy white suburbs and the poor black township of more than 100 points.

If there was any kind of genocide being carried out against white people in the country then the safest areas of the continent’s most dangerous city would not be predominately white. Of course, every farm murder in South Africa is a tragedy. Yet so, too, is every one of the 19,016 murders that occured across the country last year, even if Katie Hopkins and the global far-right fail to notice.