Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Israeli Special Forces Training White South African Farmers How to Fight Off Violent Attacks
An ex-Israeli special forces member is teaching farmers self-defence and weapons techniques in case they are targeted.

06:45, UK,
Monday 04 June 2018
By John Sparks, Africa correspondent
Sky News

In South Africa, ownership of the land has emerged as the most explosive issue faced by the country's leaders.

The government has pledged to redistribute land from white farmers to millions of black people who work on it.

But groups representing white farmers say the dispute is inflaming violence in rural areas.

Sky News Africa correspondent John Sparks has met some of those living in fear of attack.

There is a former Israeli special forces soldier named Idan Abolnik who offers the sort of specialised training that plenty of farmers in South Africa say they need.

His "Kalah combat system" involves hand-to-hand combat and weapons training, and his two-week introductory course is not designed for the meek.

Participants deal with simulated home invasions, violent assaults and imminent executions, with techniques designed to overpower the aggressor - and, interestingly, he was not teaching his pupils to acquiesce or act submissively.

Instead, this group were learning to fight back.

His pupils, who make use of a shooting range-cum-classroom near the capital Pretoria, told me they were learning essential life skills.

"I have been attacked myself and these attackers were trained very well," said a burly-looking man called Chris Herbst.

"I got shot in my face - you can see the marks there, eh? And I got stabbed nine times - but I survived it."

Such accounts fuel a sense of fear and vulnerability and Kalah student and landowner Marli Swanepoel thinks she is a target because she is white.

"What is happening in our country is intense and I get very emotional," she said - with tears running down her cheeks.

"Our people are getting murdered, tortured. Our old people can't defend themselves and are being burned with cooking oil.

"The numbers are just (rising) by the day. I mean, you are always worried that you will be the next."

Despite statistics showing 638 farm attacks last year, organisations representing white farmers, such as AfriForum, argue that the number of violent incidents is far higher.

"Current murder tendencies indicate that we will lose more people on farms than in the past three years," wrote AfriForum's Ian Cameron recently.

But black farm workers and their families are also victims of brutal crimes.

In 2016, two white farmers in the province of Mpumalanga tried to seal a 20-year old black man called Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin, then threatened to set him on fire.

The farmers, Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen, were convicted of attempted murder last November - a sentence they are currently trying to appeal against.

For Ronald Lamola, a presidential adviser and a senior member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the case serves as a reminder that crime in South Africa is colourless.

"Crime happens to everyone," he said.

"It is criminality that is happening on the farms and (the ANC) has always condemned it.

"But this crime does not just happen to white farmers. It also happens to black farm workers. It also happens to anyone, anywhere in this country."

The coffin case lit a fuse in South Africa and drew furious protesters to the courtroom.

White farmers own vast tracks of land in South Africa and as consequence they get little sympathy.

"The white people's quality of life in this country is at its highest. They live a first-world lifestyle in a third-world country," says Mr Lamola.

Oosthuizen and Jackson were convicted of the attempted murder of Mr Mlotshwa
"The majority of the country lives a third-world lifestyle in a third-world country, and that majority is the blacks."

The ANC is taking drastic action, adopting a controversial new plan called "land expropriation without compensation" - an idea loudly trumpeted by its populist political opponents, the Economic Freedom Fighters and Black First Land First.

How "expropriation without compensation" would actually work in practice is not clear.

The policy is being debated in South Africa's parliament, but the fact that President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to implement it speaks to the failure of past attempts to redistribute land from white farmers to millions of black South Africans who work on it - but do not own it.

For white farmers like Philip Potgieter, who runs a highly successful macadamia nut and avocado farm in the hills of Limpopo province, it is a deeply worrying time.

Speaking of his work on his farm, he said: "It's in our blood, our ancestors, our father's grandfathers - this is what we were born to do. I mean, where do I go?"

The government official who administers land redistribution in the area says people like Mr Potgieter will have to come to the table sooner or later.

"There is nothing we can do but put you through the process together with the community until we find a way out of this because it needs to happen," he says.

"You cannot say, 'you cannot claim my land', no you cannot say that'."

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