SA has world’s highest rate of farm attacks – report

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The rate of farm attacks on South African soil is estimated to be 700% higher than in any other country in the world, according to Professor Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who said that the chances of a farmer being murdered on a farm in South Africa are anything between four to six times higher than the average murder risk rate for the general population.

This emerged from a report released yesterday by the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI), which forms part of a national campaign against farm murders by the Solidarity Movement which includes the SRI, the trade union Solidarity, AfriForum and Kraal Uitgewers.
“Farm murders and attacks should be recognised for the national crisis that it is and therefore deserving of priority status and focused attention,” the report said.

AgriSA recorded 1 541 murders and 10 151 attacks in the period from 1994 to 2008 – an average of 0.3 murders a day. The Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) recorded 1 266 murders and 2 070 attacks in the period from 1991 to 2009 – an average of 0.2 murders a day.

The Institute for Security Studies of the University of Pretoria, using statistics provided by TAU in June 2009, reported 1 073 murders and 1 813 attacks in the period from 1993 to 2009 – an average of 0.2 murders a day.

The only available figures on the SAPS’s website concerning statistical information about farm attacks pertain to a general overview of murder statistics in South Africa as a whole. AgriSA has reported that more than 10 000 farm attacks have taken place since 1994. “The only definite fact is that farm attacks are on the increase in South Africa,” said Bezuidenhout, a professor of criminology at the University of Pretoria.

According to Dirk Hermann, Deputy General Secretary of Solidarity, farm attacks and farm murders should be declared priority crimes. “Government refuses to declare farm murders, in particular, a priority crime, because as far as government is concerned it simply forms part of the broader murder category. This is unacceptable and irresponsible.”
“It is obvious that the government no longer considers the ongoing attacks on farms and the murder of persons involved in the farming community as a priority,” said Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, in the report’s introduction. “The strategic and operational response to the threat of farm attacks and murders is clearly not based on the acknowledgement that the farming community is disproportionally targeted when compared to the victimisation risk of other citizens or groups in South Africa.”

The report covers the nature and extent of farm attacks, levels of violence during farm attacks as well as the psychological effects on victims.

AfriForum, the movement’s civil rights organisation, distributed memorandums about farm murders to 110 embassies and international institutions in October to create international awareness about the crisis. According to Nantes Kelder, head of AfriForum’s investigating unit, the establishment of community safety networks is the most practical step a community can take to drastically reduce crime in its area. It is a legal way in which communities can take the initiative to enhance their own safety.

Although farmers from different racial groups fall victim to farm attacks, white farmers stand an even greater risk to become a victim of an attack, according Bezuidenhout. In addition, the chances of a farmer being murdered on a farm in South Africa are anything between four to six times higher than the average murder risk rate for the general population. To contextualise the murder risk rate of South Africa, Bezuidenhout compared it to the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA).

During the financial year from April 2009 to March 2010 the murder rate in South Africa was 16 834 which calculates to about 34 murders out of every 100 000 of the population. Although the murder rate in South Africa apparently declined to 15 940 in the 2010/2011 financial year, it is still extremely high compared to the UK and the USA, Bezuidenhout noted.

In the recorded crime statistics for England and Wales there were 663 homicides recorded in 2008/2009, 618 in 2009/2010 and 642 in 2010/2011 – a rate of about 1 per 100 000 of the population. The USA, with a population of around 308 million, dealt with 16 465 murder victims in 2008, 15 399 in 2009 and 14 748 in 2010 – this works out to a rate of about 5 per 100 000.
“Comparatively speaking the chances of a farmer being murdered on a farm in South Africa are anything between four to six times higher than the average murder risk rate for the general population,” Bezuidenhout said.