Agricultural communities are under siege, warned Free State Agriculture following the announcement that the province has experienced nearly 300 farm attacks in the last five years.
Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2021 a total of 298 farm attacks were tallied across the Free State. This includes 37 murders, said Dr Jane Buys, security risk analyst for FSA.
Buys further stipulated that 143 commercial and up-and-coming farmers were attacked during this period, of which 16 were killed.
“The report also shows that 126 workers, including foremen, workers and/or security guards, were attacked, 14 of whom were killed.
“There were also 24 people who were attacked on farms and or smallholdings, of which 6 were killed. In 7 incidents both farmers and/or workers were attacked and in one incident both a producer and a worker were killed,” she added.
FSA has determined that almost 300 farms were subjected to attacks or murders in the five-year period. This represented nearly 4% of the province’s farming entities – based on a total of 7 951 according to Stats SA’s agricultural survey in 2018.
‘Tremendous trauma for families’
A total of 71 of the 88 towns in the Free State’s agricultural communities have been affected by a farm attack in the past five years.
When the statistics of the 2020-2021 financial year are compared with those of 2019-2020, it is clear that there was an increase of five murders – which equates to a 41.67% increase – and an increase of 14 farm attacks (22.95%).
The number of farm attacks and murders is the highest in a period of five years in the Free State.
“What is worrying is that the increase took place during the state of confinement during the Covid-19 pandemic where more visibility of the police and law enforcement was in place,” said a concerned Buys.
Buys also pointed out that in 21 of the 73 farm attacks and murders during 2020-2021, between two and five victims were attacked or killed. This includes women, family members and/or children (34.43%).
In the five-year period, 18 victims are older than 80 years, while 19 victims were under the age of 19 and therefore considered to be children.
“In 52.46% of farm attacks, victims were shot or sustained serious neck and head injuries by an average of three attackers operating per incident. This indicates the tremendous trauma that families and their communities are experiencing,” Buys concludes.