Racial tensions: South African president calls for calm

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The murder of a white farmer, two black suspects arrested, a virulent protest: the South African president called for calm on Monday, stressing that the racial tensions linked to these incidents were a sad reminder that South Africa remains in recovery from the regime apartheid.

Cyril Ramaphosa let the weekend pass to express himself, after this rise in tensions throughout last week.

The streak culminated on Friday with a terrorism charge brought against the alleged leader of a protest by white farmers who set a police car on fire outside the courthouse where black suspects in the murder of a white farmer were heard.

In the wake of this accusation, voices – especially in the opposition -, especially white, were indignant that the white farmer was treated in this way, accusing in turn the justice of racial bias.

“It would be naive to start from the principle that race relations in rural areas have been harmonious since the advent of democracy,” writes Cyril Ramaphosa in a press release issued by the presidency.

“But if we don’t approach this issue openly and honestly […]; it will remain a festering wound that threatens social cohesion, ”he said.

“What happened in Senekal”, city of the province of the Free State [centre] more than 200 km south of Johannesburg, “shows how easily the blaze of racial hatred can be kindled,” continues the president.

“We must resist any attempt to use crimes on farms to mobilize communities along racial lines”, argues Cyril Ramaphosa. “It shouldn’t make any difference whether the victim of a violent crime is black or white.”

The president recalled that, in a context of high crime affecting the country, the majority of victims of violent crimes remain “black and poor”.

But the protests in Senekal in the wake of the murder of Brendin Horn, 22, “show that we have not rid ourselves of the divisions and mistrust of the past,” insists the president.

“The brutal murder of this young white farmer, presumably by black men, followed by the spectacle of white farmers storming a police station to attack a black suspect”, this sequence “reopens wounds that go back to several generations, ”he emphasizes.

The past few months have seen numerous protests denouncing an increase in assaults and killings, mainly against whites, in rural areas.

AfriForum, a pressure group that defends the interests of the white minority (9% of the population), told AFP that 292 such attacks had been recorded this year, including 38 murders.

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