For many months, political leaders said very little about increasing farm attacks. Often, it was politicised too, with some groups wrongfully describing it as a white genocide when, in fact, all South Africans are victim to it. Now, not only has it been condemned by pres. Cyril Ramaphosa and two ministers, Thoko Didiza and Bheki Cele, but also intensely debated by the National Assembly. Duncan Masiwa reports.
“Farmers are three times more likely to be murdered than a police officer,” warned the DA’s shadow minister of state security during the parliamentary debate. She believes a long-term solution is needed to protect farmers and their workers from attacks which threaten to drive Mzansi to the brink of starvation.
In a rare show of unity, parliamentarians from different political parties paid tribute to the victims of the recent farm attacks and agreed that these senseless killings threatened the country’s food security, rural transformation and rural economic development.
“There has been 21 murders and 147 attempts in this past four months alone,” Barnard stated. “It is possible that while I’m speaking here, that another women or child is screaming on a farm in our country, and possible that there are those around us right now, who will glory on their deaths. These hatred and murders must stop. We must make them stop.”
‘All lives matter,’ says Skwatsha
Delivering his speech, the deputy minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Mcebisi Skwatsha, spoke candidly about the “barbaric killings” of farmers, farm workers and their families.
“All lives matter,” he said. “Whether those are the lives of farm workers or farm owners. This subject of discussion is a very important one as it talks to one of the fundamental chapters enshrined in our constitution – the bill of rights, which holds the right to life as sacrosanct.”
Skwatsha joined agriculture minister Thoko Didiza in conveying condolences to the victims of the recent murders on farms. He said, “This month is Heritage month, a time when South Africans ordinarily should be celebrating our unity in diversity as our constitution prescribes. The mood in many rural towns is somber due to the spike in farm murders.”
The deputy minister called on all citizens of Mzansi to support the rural safety plan lodged by minister of police Bheki Cele. This was echoed by Mandla Mandela, the grandson of the late Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela and chairperson of the portfolio committee on agriculture, land and rural development.
He warned that “far-away essential services such as emergency medical healthcare, fire and police services, have left rural farmers, farm workers and farming communities most vulnerable.”
Mandela said, “Farm owners need to allow government safety services access to their farms more frequently. He believes this will help curb the spread of rural violence and murders.
Mandela added that the slow pace of rural transformation and rural economic development is a cause for great concern. “This bedevils our efforts to effectively wipe out crime. We must ensure that we take collective responsibility for the safety and the development of rural communities.”
Political leaders speak out on farm killings
The ACDP leader, Rev. Kenneth Meshoe, said those promoting lawlessness should be held accountable. “Political parties that encourage land invasion including farms producing food, should be held equally accountable and responsible for brutal murders that happen as a result of illegal invasions.”
Narend Singh, the IFP chief whip, said the rise in farm killings could be because of the protracted covid-19 lockdown. “One of the challenges we had during the lockdown was farm watches and neighborhood watches not being allowed to operate.”
However, the South African police services national rural safety strategy, seemed like a small ray of hope. “This strategy cannot be something just on a piece of paper. It needs to be implemented, rolled out efficiently and effectively with resources to do so.”
He said this is important because the continuation of farm killings poses a threat to food security.
Inter-ministerial committee to address farm attacks
Meanwhile Noluthando Ngcakani reports that deputy president David Mabuza has also condemned the violent attacks on farmers and people living in rural communities. He promised that joint efforts will be made to ensure that perpetrators of these “heinous crimes” are brought to book swiftly.
Mabuza will on Friday convene an inter-ministerial committee on land reform and agriculture to address the recent spate of farm attacks throughout the country. He further challenged all South Africans to value the tireless efforts of farmers and farm workers.
He adds that citizens should be “relentless in their pursuit of a better country wherein all people lived in dignity and at peace with one another.” “Prevailing challenges must not lead us to despair. We must remain resolute in building a South Africa that values human life.”
The lives of farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers matter. “It is for that reason that government will continue to work with the justice, crime prevention and security cluster to ensure prevention as a priority in dealing with farm murders.”