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German MP who recently visited Czech President met with South African racists on official visit

2.1.2019 10:24
Petr Bystroň (PHOTO: Trockennasenaffe, wikimedia commons)
Petr Bystroň (PHOTO: Trockennasenaffe, wikimedia commons)

German MP Petr Bystroň (Alternative for Germany - AFD), who is of Czech origin, recently met with members of the ultra-right Suidlanders group during an official visit to the Republic of South Africa, where he visited a shooting range with them. ARD television reported last month that Germany's Bundestag paid for the trip.

AFD representatives on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the federal assembly confirmed that the MP attended the shooting exercise. Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reports that the Suidlanders describe themselves as a Protestant-inspired group of white South Africans whose "hobby" is arms.

The wire service also reports that the Suidlanders have an "unequivocal tendency to racism". The German Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens sharply criticized the MP for using public funds for such a purpose.

German MP Thomas Oppermann (SPD), the vice-chair of the house, tweeted that if Bystroň actually attended the arms training, German counter-intelligence should investigate the matter. "This may have been his last official trip," Oppermann said.

German MP Britta Hasselmann (Greens) remarked that the AfD cannot seriously pretend to have nothing to do with racism after this incident. In her view, an official trip involving arms training is something unheard-of and "calls for clarification".

Bystroň told ARD that he sees no problem in his meeting with the Suidlanders because in his view the organization is part of South African civil society. "My perception was that this is an organization of predominantly white farmers who fear for their lives and who have organized themselves in order to survive should the worst come to pass," Bystroň said.

DPA reports that there is no reliable data about member numbers for the Suidlanders, but estimates are in the thousands, with the organization itself claiming tens of thousands of members. They are mainly said to come from the Afrikaans-speaking white minority who ruled until the apartheid regime was overcome in 1994.

The Government of South Africa has been advocating the expropriation of white landowners without compensation since 2017, which the DPA reports has given energy to small extremist groups in the country. In September Bystroň sat in on a meeting between Czech President Zeman and Steve Bannon, a disgraced former strategist to the Trump administration who has been attempting to bring nationalist and populist forces together in Europe.

SB, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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