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Black and white South Africans outraged at Canadian decision to grant man refugee status because he is white.
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Brandon Huntley was exultant when he first won a ruling that granted him refugee status in Canada.
“Look for me in tomorrow’s Ottawa Sun people, lookout I’m a celebrity!” he wrote on his Facebook site.
But he quickly deleted the comment and now faces a backlash that could force him back to South Africa. Under heavy pressure from the South African government, Canada has said it will ask its Federal Court to review the controversial decision that granted Huntley refugee status on the grounds that as a white man he was persecuted by black criminals in his home country.
If Huntley is sent back to South Africa he will find a hostile media and strong criticism from mainstream political leaders.
South Africa’s home affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said that Canada’s decision was based on “absolute rubbish,” while the African National Congress called it “racist.”
“Our anger is wasted on such a numbskull and his sympathetic party of simpletons,” said an editorial in the Sowetan. “When people display such shocking levels of ignorance as Huntley and the Canadian refugees board have, they deserve our pity, not our anger.”
Nor does South Africa’s main opposition party, with widespread white support, have any time for Huntley. “If he’s not prepared to contribute to change and opts to live abroad, good luck to him, we have no support for his cause,” Melany Kahn from the Democratic Alliance told Johannesburg’s The Times.
Huntley, 31, who grew up in Cape Town and first worked in Canada as a carnival attendant, told the refugee board that he was attacked seven times in South Africa, including three stabbings. He said he was called a “white dog” and a “settler” by black assailants during these attempted robberies and muggings, although he didn’t report any of the crimes to police.
Canadian refugee tribunal chairman William Davis ruled that Huntley, as a white person, “would stand out like a sore thumb due to his color in any part of the country.” This is what strikes so many South Africans as absurd as more than 5 million whites live in South Africa, making up more than 9 percent of the total population, according to Statistics South Africa.
Davis also said that Huntley had given “convincing proof” of the South African government’s “inability or unwillingness to protect him.”
But South Africans admit that, the issue of race aside, Huntley’s case underlines the country’s significant crime problem and negative international perceptions of South Africa less than a year before it hosts the FIFA World Cup.