As the mood in the Free State town of Senekal begin to simmer down, farmers have welcomed the police’s commitment to weed out corrupt officers who are linked to crime in rural areas.
Free State Agriculture (FSA) said although tension following the murder of 21-year-old farm foreman Brendin Horner brought the nation to a crossroad, it is also noteworthy that several commitments have now been made to farmers.
“This week, the state made several important undertakings to the agricultural community, which include action against corrupt SAPS members and to focus on combating farm attacks,” said the FSA president, Francois Wilken.
“FSA welcomes the government’s entry, but now demands real results. History shows, however, that organised agriculture cannot sit back in good faith and wait for the government. Therefore, organised agriculture itself will show initiative to improve conditions.”
‘Farmers need their voices to be heard’
Beyond weeks of political shenanigans, agriculture finds itself involved in a much larger debate. Wilken said, “The emotion surrounding the Senekal protests shows that farm attacks have become symbolic of what is going wrong in South Africa for many people and communities. Therefore, we will have to reconsider our existing tactics.”
“We showed that we can be angry about every farmer’s death in a peaceful manner. We will continue to do the right things.” – SOCKS MASOKA, AFASA
The FSA president stressed that “support from our own ranks, but also from the community is important for a successful and sustainable agricultural environment”. He added, “It is the duty of the organised agriculture community to harness this support with appreciation and prudence. Therefore, in the future, farmers will have to act proactively in order to make their own voice heard and the community’s voices regarding rural security.”
Meanwhile the South African Human Rights Commission has offered to mediate in the town of Senekal following two weeks of protests over farm attacks.
Calling for calm, commissioner Chris Nissen said, “We are asking for a situation where people must remember that the (Horner murder) case must continue and that the law must take its course. We cannot continue to polarise society and political parties should not exploit the situation, but we cannot allow for criminality to continue. And therefore, it is very important to sit around the table together, as the commission will be discussing a way forward.”
‘We will continue to do the right thing’
Socks Masoka of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) said he takes off his hat for everyone – regardless of their political affiliation – who thus far protested in a responsible manner.
“We showed that we can be angry about every farmer’s death in a peaceful manner. The struggle continues. We will secure ourselves and continue to do the right things.”
Masoka had a stern message for police minister Bheki Cele, who vowed to return to the Free State with an action plan to curb crime. “I want to tell Cele his police should start doing their job and stop being part of thefts syndicates.”
‘No to civil war, no to farm killings’
Furthermore, Masoka ensured the nation that despite some political utterances, black people grief for those who are attacked and killed on farms – regardless of their skin colour. They also unite in their grief about Horner.
“We are all saddened by the young man’s death. Death and assault on our farms have no colour. All of our cattle and animals are stolen. Our farmers must stand together and say, ‘Enough is enough’,” said Masoka.
Meanwhile the nation continues to unite in prayer for the people of Senekal and other Free State farming communities. “We are here to pray for Senekal and to pray for our nation,” a pastor at the Christian Revival Church in Johannesburg, John Mathuhle, told eNCA. “We just pray for peace. Civil war will not start in Senekal and that is what we are here to say, no to civil war, no to racism, no to farm killings.”