Agricultural community faces high murder risk


Farmers, their families and those working for them are four times more likely to be murdered than “the average South African” and twice more likely to die violently at the hands of an intruder than a police officer.

These conclusions were drawn by Dianne Kohler Barnard, the MP chairing the Democratic Alliance (DA) rural safety work stream, following the release of annual crime statistics last week.

Using statistics given to Parliament by Police Minister Bheki Cele, she said they showed “another 49 farmers were murdered last year with reliable reports of 26 farmers and/or farm workers murdered in the first six months of 2020”.

Cele’s numbers were disputed by the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) with retired general Chris van Zyl, its deputy manager, saying “TAU statistics do not correspond with those the Police Minister tabled in Parliament”.

SA Police Service (SAPS) statistics have it the year 1 April 2019 to 31 March saw 49 reported farm attacks.

TAU numbers show 410 farm attacks in the financial year ending 28 February, Van Zyl said pointing out the representative agricultural organisation worked on financial rather than calendar years.

“Our numbers on farm murders more or less correspond to SAPS statistics. They report 49 and 54 were reported to TAU,” he said.

Defence expert and African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier noted “any murder is a tragedy and our rural security problem desperately needs greater attention. The stat of 49 murders is lower than in previous years, despite an overall increase in murders across the country. This may indicate some current measures are working.”

Kohler Barnard maintains the patience of South Africa’s wider agricultural community is being stretched thinner and thinner.

“South Africa’s farmers have been patient. They have also been lied to.

“While SAPS created plan after plan, black and white farmers, farm workers, their wives, children and parents are now twice as likely to be murdered than a police officer and four times more likely to be murdered than the average South African.

“It seems to be only in the most isolated rural areas where attackers have the time to hone their craft, to boil their oil and heat the irons and to sharpen their machetes, that these horrific attacks take place.

“Anyone who gives these brutal attacks any thought realises the main difference between killing someone in town or someone on a farm is isolation.

“Attackers have far more time, taking hours or even days, to torture farm owners or workers, sometimes in the belief there is a safe with firearms and jewels,” she said.

Van Zyl is concerned about “new trends” reports to TAU show.

“Kidnapping is becoming part of farm attacks, as we saw with the gruesome attack and murder of a family in Hartswater in Northern Cape recently.

“TAU is also concerned about the increased number of attackers per attack. It seems to point to organised crime involvement.”

Farm attacks and murders will be debated in the National Assembly at an as yet unspecified date. National Assembly Thandi Modise last month agreed to a nationally important debate on the issue in the wake of continued pressure from the DA and Pieter Groenewald’s Freedom Front Plus (FF+).