Farm murder rate can be guestimated

12 January 2018 - 16:26
By Katharine Child
File photo.
Image: Supplied File photo.

A 79-year-old woman in KwaZulu-Natal stabbed to death; a 60-year-old man in Northern Cape stabbed to death; two people in Port Edward attacked with axes: all are attacks on farmers in the past week.

In addition to the two murders‚ there were about 17 attacks on people living on farms and smallholdings‚ according to AfriForum's count.

Ian Cameron‚ a safety monitor at AfriForum‚ said the most gruesome attack in his opinion in the past week was on a 20-year-old in the Midvaal‚ who faced an axe attack and her home was set on fire. She survived and is in hospital.

In the same week‚ an economist has weighed in on the farm murder debate‚ saying perhaps one can begin to calculate a rough guestimate for the rate of farm murders.

The question raised on Black Monday - when farmers protested about their lack of safety – is whether people living on farms and small holdings are really targeted more than people living in towns and cities. The AfriForum figure of about 60 murders a year includes commercial farmers‚ their families‚ visitors‚ farm-workers and those living on small holdings.

The general consensus is that it is hard to work out whether farmers face more brutality and violence than other South Africans‚ a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world and violence disproportionately affecting the poor.

Institute for Security Studies researcher Gareth Newham told African Check last year: "I do not really know how one could get an accurate estimate of the murder and attack rate on farms given the complexities involved.”

But economist Russell Lamberti has weighed into the farm murder debate saying one can work out "plausible ranges" of commercial farm murder rates.

His various estimates do not "pinpoint" an exact rate of farm murders per 100 000 people‚ but suggests that if you compare farm murder rates to murder rates in middle class-to-wealthy urban areas‚ the rate of farm murders is higher.

His estimates also suggest that if you compare the murder rates of male farmers to males in the same socioeconomic class‚ the rate of murder could be at least three to four times higher and possibly as much as 10 times higher.

He states his estimates are not to arrive at the "absolute truth [about farm murder rates] but to start examining the problem and grapple with plausible ranges". His tweets also look at the murder rates in rural provinces because many farmers live in sparsely populated areas. Read his tweets here:

One of the costs of choosing to work as a commercial farmer is a high risk of death. Lamberti suggests it could lead to farmers believing it is too risky to farm commercially when similar professions and lifestyles are less dangerous. This could result in farmers urging their children to avoid the profession. In his tweets‚ Lamberti reveals the numbers he has used‚ the assumptions he has made and has adjusted his figures as experts have weighed in on the debate.

Some have queried his 20 to 70 commercial farmer murders a year estimate‚ saying it may include their families and farm workers.

He also readjusted his tweets to assume that men are more likely to be killed than women.

AfriForum spokesman Ernst Roets feels strongly about the issue of farmer murders‚ saying that "when a farm worker is killed‚ as horrible as it is‚ it becomes a national spectacle … But the trend of farmer deaths is not seen in the same light".