Infringing human rights: Dutch Parliament condemns expropriation policy in South Africa

Civis Mundi Digitaal #87


The Dutch Parliament accepted a motion on 1 July 2019 to condemn the policy of South Africa’s government favouring expropriation without compensation as being contrary to international human rights.
The motion stated “that both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter of Human Rights forbid arbitrary deprivation of property, especially on the basis of skin color”.  It also “calls on the government, bilaterally and in international fora, to make a clear statement that the intended expropriation of white farmers in South Africa, without compensation, is contrary to human rights, and to put pressure on South Africa to abandon it.”(2)
The motion was submitted by Martijn van Helvert, a Christian Democrat (CDA) Member of Parliament, and Kees van der Staaij, the leader of the State Reformed Party (SGP).  The Dutch Second Chamber, comparable to the Lower House in the UK, passed the motion by 86 votes for and 64 votes against.(3)
The parties who supported the motion included the ruling liberal VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the Christian Democrats, two nationalist parties (the PVV of Geert Wilders and the Forum for Democracy of Thierry Baudet), Plus50 (a small party representing the interests of older citizens), the conservative Christian SGP and the liberal Christian Union party.


Dutch engagement and NGO activities

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa decided during its December 2017 congress to accept the principle of expropriation of property without compensation.  The ANC and other parties agreed in February 2018 in the South African Parliament to look into changing the South African Constitution’s clause on guaranteed property rights.  In mid-2018, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that the policy would apply to both urban and rural land.
AfriForum, a South African civil rights NGO with 220 000 members, has in various ways been informing American, British and European ‒ including Dutch ‒ policy makers since 2018 about the ANC’s expropriation policies.  However, Dutch parliamentarians have also pro-actively engaged to find out from analysts and other sources about the ANC’s policies and their impact on international human rights and Dutch interests.  In addition, shifts within parties and the rise of non-centrist parties in the Dutch political constellation have contributed to the support for the motion among centrist parties.
Already on 27 March 2018, Van Helvert presented written questions in the Dutch Parliament about “the discrimination of, expropriation of and murder sprees against white farmers in South Africa”.(4)  On 29 June 2018, Van Helvert presented written questions about “the growing uncertainty about property and investment in South Africa”.(5)  On 14 December 2018, Van Helvert presented written questions in Parliament about South Africa forging ahead towards expropriation without compensation.(6)


Human rights at risk

In 2018, the foundation of former South African President Thabo Mbeki already stated in a leaked internal paper that the ANC has abandoned its historical values on non-racialism through its framing of the land reform debate as one of black versus white.(7)
Racial nationalist discourses by the factionalized ANC and the EFF blaming Afrikaners and whites in general have started to overshadow the non-racialist approach of the Mandela years.  Political economist Moeletsi Mbeki said in this regard:
This is not about land.  It is about the loss of votes by the ANC.  And the ANC and its little son, the EFF, they think they can bring back the voters who are abandoning the ANC by attacking the white population … Its solution is to attack the white population.  Malema is leading the ANC’s election campaign by attacking the white population.(8)
During recent discussions of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Van Helvert stated that the involvement of far-right groups had unfortunately framed the issue in racial terms.  Mainstream politicians were therefore careful to deal with this very real infringement of human rights, but they could not avoid doing so.
Stef Blok (VVD), the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, commented during the same committee discussions: “If that law were adopted, it would affect a human right, the right to property.”
It is now an open question to what extent other European and US political actors will also put pressure on South Africa’s ANC government to stop its infringement of human rights.



  1. Dr. Heinrich Matthee is a political analyst for international business in the Middle East and Africa.