On South Africa

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “Dutton fundamentally misunderstands the ‘plight’ of white farmers in South Africa“(Thursday)

Greg Barns is spot on. The constitutional and legal framework in post-apartheid South Africa has proven itself to be an independent and fair jurisdiction when it comes to dealing with issues of land ownership. The problem has been the lack of political leadership to pursue it, and under President Ramaphosa that could now be changing.

I lived five years in neighbouring Namibia (2006-2011), which inherited a land ownership system shaped by the repressive inequities of both German colonialism and South African apartheid. And, as I saw when I was back working there in the past three months, the debate on land redistribution continues without adequate resolution. For many Namibians and, presumably, South Africans, there remains support for President Mugabe tackling this, even if they do not agree with how it was done. And now, President Ramaphosa is considering means of tackling South Africa’s egregious inherited system in a just and legal manner. By 2012, President Mugabe had ensured the closure of the regional court, the Southern African Development Community Tribunal, because it ruled in favour of several cases brought by white Zimbabwean farmers.

At the same time, the South African High Court ruled in support of three white farmers who had moved to South Africa and sought compensation from the Zimbabwean government. It is insulting for the Australian government to be publicly pre-judging South Africa in this way. Across the spectrum of populations around the world meriting Australian prioritisation for fast-tracked entry for their own protection, South African farmers are not amongst them.

It is good to know that Minister Dutton may have a humanitarian streak, but his one display of that possible tendency is clearly based solely on skin colour and alternative facts. It is time for the Prime Minister to root out race-based abuse of Ministerial powers (I assume he is happy to retain Dutton as a Minister, and to tolerate his gifting to Dutton of wider powers to speak and act) and for the Foreign Minister to express Australia’s support for President Ramaphosa’s proposed reforms. And, given that Australia is evidently capable of fast-tracking the entry of deserving cases, use its current membership of the UN Human Rights Council to work cooperatively with OHCHR on the most deserving cases and at least salvage a little bit of its severely depleted international human rights reputation.

On diagnosing Dutton

Ruv Draba writes: Re. “The Dutton Diagnosis: the obsession that’s become a national disorder“(Thursday)

This comment is to attest that I don’t always disagree (or even partially disagree) with Helen. I’m glad you raised the Goldwater case. The APA still debates it, and debated it over Trump early in his candidacy. I’ve seen pro and con arguments, and agree with you that regardless of whether Trump needs his head read, the public don’t need the media to hire tame experts to do it on the public’s behalf.

I don’t say this enough (or ever, that I can recall): I love how widely your eye roves, how deeply you read, and your ability to bring interesting and often significant arcana to the attention of Crikelings. Also, I like how disagreeable you are about issues over which too many folk appease. Thank you.

Peter Fray

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