Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s sudden interest in the plight of white South African farmers is nothing more than an exercise in shoring up hard-right voters. It is clear from Dutton’s statements on the issue -- of a recent move by the South African Parliament to recommend an amendment to that nation’s constitution to allow for expropriation of agricultural land without compensation -- that he knows nothing about the complexity of the issue, or the fact that the prospects of it becoming a reality are far from certain.

It is telling that the major group representing South African white farmers, AfriForum SA, is not keen on Dutton’s uncharacteristic generosity towards individuals who want to come to Australia. "Our future is in Africa, not elsewhere," the lobby group’s chief executive Kallie Kriel said. White farmers -- who, by the way, hold a staggering 73% of agricultural land despite apartheid ending more than two decades ago -- know that it is one thing for the legislators to pass a resolution seeking an amendment to the constitution, and quite something else for that desire to be translated into a legal reality.

The South African constitution came into being in 1996. Most of its provisions can be amended by a vote of two thirds of the National Assembly, which is the equivalent of the House of Representatives. But there are also requirements for what is called a Constitutional Review Committee, which is an all-party parliamentary committee and includes members representing the nine provinces (South Africa has a federal system), to examine any amendment.