ABC News - (Australia)
Canada granted South African man Brandon Huntley asylum because, in the view of the refugee board there, he was persecuted as a white man.
Mr Huntley claims that while he was living in South Africa he was the victim of robberies and muggings and was stabbed several times by black men.
The decision reflects poorly on South Africa and predictably, the government has taken offence.
Ishmael Mnisi, spokesman for the governing African National Congress, says the move to grant Mr Huntley refugee status is racist.
"We find the claim by Huntley to have been attacked seven times by Africans due to his skin colour, without any police intervention, sensational and alarming," he said.
"Canada's reasoning for granting Harley a refugee status can only serve to perpetuate racism."
The Canadian authorities believe he was attacked because of the colour of his skin.
Russell Kaplan, Brandon Huntley's Canadian lawyer, says there is evidence which supports his claim.
"Every incident that was reviewed - not only of Brandon's, but in the witnesses and different family members of the witnesses and friends and people that they knew of - there's the big question throughout: Was this just an act of criminality or was there racial motivation as part of it?" he said.
"Every single time, there was evidence that they were not just victims of criminality, there was a racial component in the incident."
Defy or surrender
More than one million white South Africans have left the country since the end of apartheid, and whites now represent less than 10 per cent of the population.
Broadly speaking, there are two groups of whites. There are those who are defiant and intend to remain in the country; thy are the ones who are optimistic about life in South Africa.
Then there are the pessimists, the whites who are prepared to surrender and move.
The argument that you will hear from them is that they do not want to bring their children up in a violent country, where opportunities are dwindling.
Alana Bailey from the white advocacy group Afriforum says crime is the main reason whites are leaving.
On average, 50 people are murdered in South Africa every day - although most victims are black.
"We feel that it's high time that government should investigate the reasons why so many South Africans are leaving South Africa or would like to leave South Africa," Ms Bailey said.
"Crime has become the number one reason why people leave... often because something dramatic happened to them, like somebody close to them was murdered or they were hijacked or they were in a house robbery or something violent and very upsetting happened to them."
She says white South Africans are a minority and feel under threat.
"You definitely feel under more threat because it's easier to ignore a minority than a majority," she said.
"Therefore, many people have the feeling that if they complain, with right, about any problem in the country and they are white, they're now just being ignored."
Ms Bailey says she often hears very upsetting comments from the victims of violent crime.
"For example, that they were told, 'you are white and therefore we have the right to rob you or the right to rape you or the right to kill you'," she said.
"We also sometimes hear upsetting reports of police who said, 'just because you're white you don't have the right to expect that we're going to investigate all cases', or something like that.
"That concerns us very much, because if you're a minority and remarks like that are made towards you, you feel very powerless and you feel under greater threat than somebody else would probably feel.
"That definitely contributes to the reason why so many white South Africans are leaving, and also South Africans of other minority groups, like for instance, coloured South Africans."
She says there is a good deal of evidence that racism is thriving in South Africa in both directions.
"South Africa definitely isn't a harmonious society yet," she said.
"One can always hope that mutual respect will eventually follow."
Brandon Huntley claims he and other white South Africans are also persecuted in the workplace.
The country's system of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is designed to encourage employers to hire blacks.
"If you were a white South African and you applied for a particular position, or at least this is the testimony, this is the evidence that Brandon was submitting, that you wouldn't be able to get a job, purely because of the colour of your skin," said Mr Kaplan.
"The way the Canadian tribunal looked at that is they say... the BEE, as they call it, is discriminatory in nature and according to the United Nations handbook, if a discrimination is in a field of you earning your livelihood, then it becomes persecution.
"So this was evidence, according to the tribunal, that Brandon was in fact persecuted. It wasn't just because of the stabbings."
However, Bridgette Lightfoot of Homecoming Revolution believes South Africa has plenty to offer whites and is encouraging them to follow in her footsteps and return home.
"I myself have lived overseas for six years and I've been back for eight months and we really don't feel that there is this racial prejudice against white people," she said.
"We think it's a wonderful country, there's a lot of opportunity for people of all colours and we encourage those people who want to make a difference and return home to do so."
Much will depend on President Jacob Zuma, who has gone out of his way to embrace white South Africans and has acknowledged that the white exodus is hurting the country.
He must now find a way of convincing people that the rainbow nation is truly a land that all races can call home.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
ABC News - (Australia)