Back in August, Trump parroted a conspiracy theory ― touted by neo-Nazis and Fox News host Tucker Carlson ― that problems with South Africa’s post-apartheid land reform and its murder rates amount to “white genocide.” Trump claimed at the time that the South African government was seizing land from white farmers and killing them on a “large scale.”
That’s simply not true, as a new CNN investigation confirms.
Though the notion of “white genocide” in South Africa has wormed its way into the conservative American mainstream, there’s no evidence to support the claim that farmers (let alone white farmers) are being killed at disproportionate rates to those of other groups of people, according to CNN’s report. There’s a murder problem in South Africa, but it’s not specific to white farmers, who own more than 70 percent of private farmland despite making up only 8.9 percent of the population.
Trump’s August tweet was an immediate hit among American neo-Nazis and white supremacists. In South Africa, the president’s rhetoric had an even more significant effect. It signaled to that country’s extremists that their pushing of conspiracy theories was working so effectively that a world leader had signed on.
Simon Roche, a South African white nationalist seen alongside neo-Nazis at the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, is the public face of his country’s white genocide hysteria. He’s a leader of the Suidlanders, an organized group of white supremacists who believe that a race war is coming.
If any one person is the barometer for white supremacist anxiety in South Africa, it’s Roche, and he sees Trump as a champion of his movement.
In Trump’s tweet, “we saw a ray of hope,” Roche told CNN. “Maybe there are people out there who know and care and have power and influence. Only time will tell how much is smoke and mirrors, shadows and dust.”
As a groan-worthy bonus to that interview, Roche regurgitated Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” rhetoric when talking about far-right extremist groups in the U.S. and the Charlottesville rally. He referred to America’s fascists as “great guys.”
“We toured for six months last year,” he said. “The thing that struck us was the classiness of the people who attended our talks. They are not your radical neo-Nazi kind of people. In venue after venue, in presentation after presentation, we met sterling young guys ― great guys ― magnificent manners.”
With the wind of Trump’s bloviating in its sails, South African white victimhood is taking a world tour. Members of AfriForum, which bills itself as a minority civil rights group for white South Africans, have made trips to America and Australia to spout propaganda about ethnic cleansing.
Ian Cameron, AfriForum’s head of community safety, recently attributed the movement’s success directly to Trump, according to the South African news site Mail & Guardian.