Farm attacks reach crisis point – Solidarity

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Farm murders in South Africa have reached a crisis point and stern action is needed to tackle the problem and to have it classified as a priority crime, according to the Solidarity Movement.

The Movement (specifically Solidarity, AfriForum and Kraal Uitgewers) said it was reacting to the spate of farm attacks that has terrorised the farming community since the beginning of this year.

The Solidarity Movement’s publishing house, Kraal Uitgewers, in cooperation with Solidarity and AfriForum, will soon be launching a campaign against farm attacks. The campaign will involve, among other things, a project in which all South Africans affected by farm attacks will have an opportunity to tell their stories. Their stories will be documented in a new book that will serve as a memorial for the victims of farm attacks. The organisations will also put pressure on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to classify farm attacks as a priority crime, Solidarity said in a statement.
“The agricultural community has been living in fear for years and new incidents of farm attacks are reported almost daily,” according to Dr Dirk Hermann, Deputy General Secretary of Solidarity. “In the meantime, the police and the government are turning a blind eye to the problem and are trying to pacify the agricultural community with promises of a rural safety plan. A month ago, the SAPS announced the imminent release of a safety plan that would deal with issues such as police visibility in rural areas, service delivery at police stations and the relationship between the police, farming communities and extended rural communities. However, such a plan has not been released yet.”
“In the first edition of Kraal Uitgewers’ book on farm attacks in South Africa, Land of sorrow, more than 2 600 attacks and murders over the period 1990 to 2010 are listed. These figures do not give the full picture, however, and the truth is even more shocking,” Hermann explained. “The book will be updated this year. Everyone’s story must be heard. We must not remain silent about the brutality of farm attacks which causes our rural community to live in a permanent state of fear.”

The Solidarity Movement has also thrown its weight behind the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa’s appeal the SAPS to classify farm attacks as a distinct crime. “For as long as farm attacks are not viewed and classified as a separate type of crime, it will simply not be possible to crack down on the problem. It is true that this type of crime is difficult to classify precisely, but it cannot be denied that attacks of this nature differ from murders and attacks that occur in urban areas,” Hermann said.

The following are among the farm attacks that have occurred this year:
· Saturday, 14 January: Dries du Toit was attacked and killed during the early hours of the morning on his farm in the Ventersdorp area. His wife and sister were also assaulted during the attack.
· Thursday, 26 January: A 70-year-old farmer, Corrie Potgieter, shot and killed a trespasser who tried to gain entry to his house on his farm in the Karino region, west of Mbombela. One of the three robbers held the farmer’s gardener while another unexpectedly pointed a firearm at the farmer. Potgieter shot the robber. When the police arrived at the scene, it was discovered that the robbers had used BB guns in the attack. (This attack was one of several in the district.)
· Sunday, 29 January: The body of 77-year-old Hendrik Johannes (Boet) Cilliers was found on his farm approximately 15 km outside Stella in North West. It is believed he died some time during the weekend after he had been severely assaulted, tied to a tree and shot.
· Sunday, 5 February: Girlie van Niekerk (62) was assaulted by two intruders. They also tried to strangle her. That attack happened at the Group 14 smallholdings outside Bothaville.
· Sunday, 12 February: Reinetha Venter (59) and her daughter René (27) were attacked on their farm approximately 30 km outside Modjadjiskloof. Reinetha was stabbed at least ten times in her hands with a knife before she and her daughter were tied up.
· Monday, 20 February: David Hall (48) was assaulted and shot dead during an attack on his dairy farm in the Fochville area. His wife, Bernadette (44), was tied up during the attack.
· Tuesday, 21 February: Carel Bester (74) was attacked by a robber on his smallholding on the Eindhoek Suiker Estates approximately 13 km outside Empangeni.
· Thursday, 10 March: Vic Nel and his wife Hannie were attacked on their farm near Vergeleë in North West, about 10 km from the Botswana border, at around 21:00. Shots were fired at Vic. The couple were tied up with cables and robbed.
· Tuesday, 20 March: Tjokkie Venter (34), a farmer in the Harrismith district, was assaulted on the farm Uitvlugt by workers of a farm belonging to the South African National Roads Agency. He was stabbed in the face with a knife and hit on the head with an iron pipe.
· Sunday, 25 March: Bouke Tack (57) was shot in the back during an attack on his dairy farm Golden Valley in the Magaliesburg area. The attack left him partially paralysed. His wife Olga (53) and son Marnus (18) were also at home at the time of the attack, but were not injured.
· Wednesday, 28 March: The owner of a house on a farm in the Donkerhoek area outside Zeerust shot dead an intruder in the early hours of the morning.
· Tuesday, 3 April: At van der Merwe (68) died after he had been severely assaulted on his farm in the Leeubosch area in the Bloemhof district.
· Friday, 6 April: Deon Steenkamp (44), his wife Christelle (43) and their 14-year-old daughter Marthella were murdered on the farm Naauwhoek outside Griekwastad in the Northern Cape.
· Sunday, 8 April: Charlotte Sroneman (64) was stabbed to death in a robbery on the farm Dagbreek outside George in the Southern Cape. Her husband, who was also stabbed, survived the attack.
· Tuesday, 10 April: Christo Jansen van Rensburg (36) from the Heilbron district was petrol bombed and set alight by attackers. He survived the attack, but sustained serious burn injuries.
· Tuesday, 10 April: Dave Foxon (43), manager of the Umbhaba Lodge near Hazyview, was shot dead in front of his pregnant wife and two children.