The agricultural sector was taken aback this morning by the official statistics for farm attacks released by police minister Bheki Cele and Stats SA. Officially, 49 farm murders occurred during the 2019-2020 financial year.
In a strongly-worded statement, Agri SA says the statistics also does not reflect the sense of insecurity experienced by the farming community. Tommie Esterhuyse, chairperson of Agri SA’s centre of excellence: rural safety, says, “The spate of farm attacks and murders, and especially the recent murders in the Vaalharts area, as well as the high levels of property-related crime, have brought the mood virtually to breaking point.”
He says it has become increasingly difficult to manage the situation and farmers and their workers have had enough. Esterhuyse says, “These and other incidents of violence which affect the farming community as well as fellow South Africans on a daily basis are strongly condemned.”
Usually, the country’s crime statistics are only released in September, but it was announced earlier. Going forward, the SAPS will publish these statistics on a quarterly basis instead. Cele reported that the 49 murders were based on 46 incidents, apparently just two more than the previous year.
Agri SA says this is still 49 murders too many, and the attacks have deprived the country of strategic skills in the agricultural sector and robbed it of the expertise that is sorely needed to contribute towards economic growth and food security.
The agricultural organisation is also worried about an indication that two of the so-called trio-crimes, namely business robberies and vehicle hijackings, further increased during the past year by 3,3% and 13,3%, respectively.
Home robberies, however, declined by 5,8% compared to the previous year, but are still 26% higher than the figure for 2011/2012. These are particular crimes experienced by farming communities on a daily basis and which detract from their quality of life.
Meanwhile, Agri SA says it commends the Vaalharts community in North West who yesterday marched in solidarity with the victims to the court where the suspects appeared. This after three members of the Brand family were killed after being abducted from their farm in Hartswater.
“Through peaceful protest, they showed the country how to make their voices heard without resorting to arson and plunder. This should serve as a lesson to fellow South Africans,” says Esterhuyse.
He stresses that Agri SA supports law-abiding actions such as this. “We trust that the accused, if convicted, will receive the harshest possible sentences. These people do not belong in society!”
The Agri Securitas Trust Fund’s work over the years to safeguard farming communities is praiseworthy and still yields excellent results, says Esterhuyse.
The fund recently made financial contributions to various farmer associations to assist in improving the safety of farmers and workers.
Agri SA has approached Cele for a meeting to discuss the safety of the agricultural community in an attempt to find solutions to the culture of violence experienced in farming areas. “We trust that such a meeting will take place soon,” says Esterhuyse.