Farm murders and attacks should be treated as priority crimes‚ says crime expert
While 62 farm murders in 2017/18 pales in comparison with the 57 South Africans murdered daily‚ some believe the nature and impact of these murders deserve special attention.
Crime expert Johan Burger said in an Institute for Security Studies (ISS) report on Tuesday that farm attacks and farm murders were like the trio crimes of house robbery‚ business robbery and carjacking.
He believes farm murders and farm attacks should be treated as priority crimes.
“The differences largely relate to the geographical location of the target. Unlike urban areas‚ farms and smallholdings are much more isolated and removed from immediate police or other security services‚ including close neighbours. This relative isolation provides attackers with more time and freedom to commit crimes against their victims‚ which are often extremely violent‚ including the gratuitous use of torture.”
According to the latest crime statistics released in Parliament on Tuesday‚ there were 62 murders‚ 33 house robberies‚ six attempted murders and two rapes on farms in 2017/18. This includes farm owners and workers.
Eleven incidents and a dozen murders were reported in Gauteng.
The North West province recorded the second-highest number of farm attacks‚ resulting in nine deaths.
The police stopped publishing the number of farm murders and farm attacks in 2008. Agricultural body Agri SA condemned what it considers a “culture of violence against” farmers and farm workers.
“Steal my things and finish up. Why do you have to murder me? ... Why do you first have to burn someone with warm water? Or burn him first with an iron?” Agri SA’s Kobus Breytenbach asked.
“When there is a murder in a city or town or a township‚ people can hear if someone is shouting and having an emergency. On farms it is isolated. If I shout‚ only my wife is going to hear me ... My farm workers live far from me.”
AfriForum’s head of community safety Ian Cameron believes farmers are vital in their role as food producers.
“If my neighbours are murdered now‚ it will obviously cause panic in the community‚ but a month from now the community goes on. When a farmer is murdered‚ hundreds of people are affected and sometimes even thousands if it a big commercial farmer who now does not have a source of income‚ employment‚ maybe housing and children going to school. The ripple effect of the murder of a farmer is significantly more than the average South African‚” Cameron said.
“We are not saying that someone’s life is more valuable than another.”
TAU SA deputy president Henry Geldenhuys believes farmers are being targeted.
“Politicians and their pronouncements definitely play a role as well. [And with] the land issue this thing (farm attacks and farm murders) are going to increase.”
Agricultural union TAU SA has collected its own statistics since 1990 and recorded 70 farm murders in 2017/18 while the police recorded 62. Geldenhuys wants to meet with Police Minister Bheki Cele or police top brass to clear up the discrepancy.
“We verify with case numbers.”
Cameron believes the police’s farm murder statistics are correct but found a huge discrepancy in the number of farm attacks. The civil rights group recorded 300 farm attacks between January 1 and September 10 this year.
“It does not make sense.”
Agri SA trusts the police’s numbers. Breytenbach believes the police often get all the blame for crime statistics while the department of justice escapes scrutiny.
“There is a whole chain and we often only focus on the police‚” Breytenbach said.
“The police officer tries his best to say this person is guilty‚ but when it arrives at the department of justice it is another chapter that is written before someone is convicted.”