The police and the country’s biggest farmers’ union AgriSA are to embark on a joint “roadshow” from next month to address rural safety concerns, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa says. “We need to ensure that production at farms continues unhindered. We cannot allow crime to be a deterrent,” said Mthethwa.
Andre Botha, chairman of AgriSA’s rural safety committee yesterday told Parliament’s police portfolio committee two farmers are attacked every day in South Africa and two killed per week. “The statistics (are) well known: 11 785 attacks, 1804 murders since ’91,” he said, violence that mirrors SA’s national crime plague that sees an average 50 people killed a day. “What is a very worrying aspect is the brutality in which the murders are conducted.”
The briefing follows the recent murder of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement, AWB) leader Eugene Terre’Blanche, allegedly by two of his farmworkers, which heightened racial tensions amid anger over a “shoot the boer” (farmer) liberation-era song sung by ruling party youth leader Julius Malema. Botha said one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture was irresponsible remarks from government officials and political leaders, French news agency AFP reported. “The hate speech and the inflammatory remarks should not be tolerated,” said Botha.
Mthethwa will meanwhile today meet the leadership of the Food & Allied Workers Union to discuss farm workers’ views on farm safety. “This meeting takes place following after our engagement with the leadership of the AWB this week. The issues affecting the farming community, including farm murders, need to be understood from both the farmers and workers’ spectrums, hence this engagement with FAWU.”
Farm killings are a racially charged matter in South Africa with official reforms having failed to dent apartheid land patterns that left the bulk of farms in white hands 16 years after majority rule.
“A transgression to one is a transgression to all. We want to form a partnership with the authorities,” said Botha. Agricultural unions called on officials not to distinguish between white and black victims on farms. “Black farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers are gravely affected by crime,” said Ismail Motala of the United South African Agricultural Association, which represents some 1800 mainly black farmers in the Western Cape province. “Crime on farms or in the rural communities is not racially based. Crime affects our members and their families all the time.”
Mthethwa Monday said the police take an impartial approach to farm safety and will not be affected by politicians’ attempts to polarise the issue. He was speaking after “fruitful” talks with newly-appointed AWB leader Steyn van Ronge in Pretoria. The right-wing and racist AWB had asked for the meeting to voice its concern about farm murders and to find out how the government planned to deal with the matter, the South African Press Association reported. AWB leader Eugene Terre’Blanche was murdered at his farm outside Ventersdorp over Easter weekend. The crime was reportedly committed over a wage dispute, SAPA adds.
Mthethwa sought to assure the AWB that rural safety was one of the government’s top priorities, and indicated that there needed to be more meetings with the group that recently reformed after disbanding in the 1990s. The white supremacist group seeks racial segregation and a separate white homeland. “We cannot understand each other’s issues from a distance. The meeting is a sign of mutual recognition irrespective of each other’s school of thought or ideology,” he said.