Minority rights group AfriForum has filed complaints against President Cyril Ramaphosa and Lindiwe Sisulu, in her previous capacity as Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, with the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.
In a statement on Tuesday, the group said it had reported the two leaders for “attempting to discredit AfriForum as a human rights defender and, in doing so, impairing the work that the organisation is doing to promote human and civil rights in South Africa.”
The matter relates to US President Donald Trump’s tweet in August 2018, posted after an AfriForum trip to the US, that he had instructed his secretary of state to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”
Trump ‘clearly misinformed’
In a subsequent trip to the US in September 2018, Ramaphosa told Bloomberg TV news channel that Trump had been “clearly misinformed.”
He said, “There are no killings of farmers or white farmers in South Africa. There’s no land grab in South Africa. We are involved in a process of discussing land reform.”
AfriForum later claimed that Ramaphosa had “lied,” but his spokesperson Khusela Diko denied this.
“It is very unfortunate that anyone would want to deliberately distort the President’s remarks which were in direct response to ‘large scale killing of farmers,’ a characterisation everyone knows holds no truth in South Africa,” she said.
AfriForum’s UN demands against Ramaphosa
The lobby group has now taken the matter to the UN, enjoining Sisulu in it for claiming AfriForum was spreading “blatant lies” and “misinformation” about South Africa.
It wants the UN Special Rapporteur to ask Ramaphosa and Sisulu to retract their statements “on an international platform.”
It also wants the UN to hold the President and his government responsible for allegedly discrediting AfriForum’s efforts to raise international awareness against “gross human rights violations, particularly against minorities, in South Africa.”
Ramaphosa should also commit to protecting AfriForum “as a human rights defender,” the group demands.
Ernst Roets, AfriForum’s Head of Policy and Action, said, “The first step in addressing these issues is to admit that it exists.
“It is very worrying that the South African government ignores these issues locally, but it is unacceptable for the President to completely deny the existence of these crises in the international sphere.
“The attempts by the President’s spokespeople to contextualise his statements after his return to South Africa did nothing to repair the damage that was done internationally.”
The Presidency and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation have not yet reacted to AfroForum’s complaints.