Cyril Ramaphosa has slammed claims by lobby groups that violent crimes on farms are part of an orchestrated campaign by black people to drive white farmers off their land, or that farm attacks are part of ethnic cleansing or genocide.
In his Monday morning newsletter, the president cited numerous studies that show crime in farming communities is largely opportunistic and that rural communities are more vulnerable to crime simply because of their isolated location. This, unfortunately, makes it a lot harder for them to have access security and other services that might protect them.
Ramaphosa added that farm attacks are just acts of criminality which must be treated as such. He condemned the protest that took place outside the Senekal Magistrate’s court last week following the arrest Brendin Horner’s suspected killers.
“The violent protests that took place… show that we have not yet escaped the divisions and mistrust of our past. While anger at the senseless killing is justifiable, vigilantism is not.
“The brutal killing of a young white farmer, allegedly by black men, followed by the spectacle of white farmers storming a police station to get to a black suspect has opened up wounds that go back many generations,” he said.
“We must not be blinded by our own prejudices to the suffering and pain of others. It should not matter to us if the victim of violent crime is black or white.” – PRES. CYRIL RAMAPHOSA
He emphasised that if we want to be triumphant in tackling violent crime, particularly in rural communities, we must confront this trauma and challenge the racial attitudes that prevent a united response.
“Those people who think that farm attacks affect just a small part of our population are wrong. The farming community is an integral part of our economy. The farming community produces the food that we eat. Violent crime on farms poses not just a threat to the safety of our rural communities, but to our nation’s food security.”
Ramaphosa declared that the success of our rural safety strategy rests on greater coordination and better communication between the South African Police Service, businesses, farming organisations and communities.
“There needs to be more collaboration between farm watch organisations and Community Policing Forums. Farming communities, including farmworkers, must actively participate in these forums, because it is, they who are the eyes and ears on the ground. Traditional leaders need to be empowered to play a greater role in safety in farming communities.”
‘Let’s tackle inequality in farming communities’
Farmers need to more readily provide access to their lands to law-enforcement officials,” he said. “Private security companies operating in farming communities need to work more closely with the SAPS, and at the same time ensure that arrests of suspects are done within the confines of our Constitution. We must continue to explore additional measures, such as integrated communications technologies, to step up rural safety.”
He stressed that, at the same time, we have to invest in rural development and tackle the severe inequality that persists in farming communities. While implementing a coordinated effort to improve the quality of life of all people living in rural areas to eliminate poverty, which is a major contributing factor to crime.
“We would be naïve to assume that race relations in farming communities have been harmonious since the advent of democracy. Unless this is addressed in an open and honest manner, unless we are prepared to engage in dialogue, this will remain a festering wound that threatens social cohesion.”
“What happened in Senekal shows just how easily the tinderbox of race hatred can be ignited. As a nation we must resist any attempts to use crime on farms to mobilise communities along racial lines.”
‘Crime is our collective problem’
Ramaphosa said the murder of Horner, and the deaths Mogamad Cloete, Tawqeer Essop and André Bennett, three young men who were shot in a car in Delft in the Western Cape in the same week are four murders too many.
“We must work together to root out criminality, whether it is in Senekal or on the streets of Delft. Crime is not somebody else’s problem; it is our collective problem.”
“We must remain vigilant and work with the police to keep our communities safe. We must not harbour criminals among us. In far too many instances, perpetrators are known to communities and are sheltered by them. We must not be blinded by our own prejudices to the suffering and pain of others. It should not matter to us if the victim of violent crime is black or white. To do so would be a betrayal not just of this country’s founding principles, but of our own humanity,” he said.