More than 12,000 people have signed a petition asking President Donald Trump to let white people in South Africa emigrate to the U.S. amid a vote by the country’s parliament favoring a motion that could see South Africa’s constitution amended to allow for land to be stripped from owners without any compensation.
The motion, which will still need the approval of the South African Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee before an amendment can even be drafted, has once again stoked fears among the country’s white farmers of a violent and disastrous land redistribution akin to that which crippled Zimbabwe in the 2000s.
The online petition calls on Trump to “take the steps necessary to initiate an emergency immigration plan allowing white Boers to come to the United States.” Boer is the term used to describe South Africans of Dutch, German or Huguenot descent, who are also commonly referred to as Afrikaners.
The petition suggests that Trump should stop admitting refugees from Somalia and the Middle East, claiming they “cannot be properly vetted,” and allow white South Africans into the country instead.
A similar petition, calling on European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May to allow white South Africans into EU countries, has gained nearly 17,000 signatures.
The motion was put forward by the Economic Freedom Fighters and supported, but amended by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), with the party promising reforms that will address racial disparities in land ownership. Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the move, with the motion passing 241-83.
It was a key part of recently elected President Cyril Ramaphosa’s platform. Ramaphosa, who has long supported Nelson Mandela’s vision for South Africa, took office last month, replacing former President Jacob Zuma.
More than two decades after white-minority rule came to an end in South Africa, most of the country’s profitable farming land is owned by white residents. A recent land audit conducted by Agri SA, a South African agricultural industry association, found that white farmers still control 73 percent of the country’s profitable farming land.
Agri SA expressed concerns over the parliament vote, saying that while it “fully understands the need for land reform and the frustration with the apparent slow process and is committed to orderly and sustainable land reform…politics and emotion dominated the debate.”
Dan Kriek, Agri SA’s president, warned that the rights of all property owners in South Africa were at stake. He said that amending the country’s constitution property clause would be a step backward into a past where the protection of property rights was not applied across the board.
Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF opposition party, which introduced the motion told parliament, told lawmakers “we must stop being cowards. We must stop working around the white minorities who are governed by the fear of the unknown when it comes to the question of land expropriation without compensation.”
He said land expropriation would end disparity caused by “criminals who stole our land.”