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Violence Against South African Farmers Has Decreased

by Shelby Hawkins on June 28, 2018

Research conducted by the nation’s biggest farming organization reveals murders of South African farmers is at a 20 year low. Contrary to Western and Australian media outlets, this news comes as a shock.

According to AgriSA, an association representing hundreds of agricultural groups, 47 farmers were killed in between the years 2017 and 2018. A consistent decline of violence is happening since its peak in 1998 when 153 deaths were recorded.

From 2003 to 2011, 80 to 100 farmers were victim to homicide, and then 60 until 2016. However, Kobus Breytenbach, the chair of the association’s Center of Excellence of Rural Safety, believes that the threat to farmers has remained consistently high. Any decline in homicide rates can be credited to the precautious farmers “to protect themselves and their livelihoods”.

“The rural community has become alert and prepared … They are working with the South African police service and are much more organised than 20 years ago. Everyone is aware of the situation,” he said.

Breytenbach also says that there has actually been a rise in number of attacks against farms. He maintains that in between 2016 and 2017 violence rose from 478 to 561.

His remarks coincide with Western media’s description of the surging brutality towards white South African farmers.

In response to this kind of news, Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton invited white South African farmers to migrate to Australia. Stating that those individuals “deserve special attention” and “help from a civilized country like ours” because of “horrific circumstances of land seizures and violence.

Why Is There Violence?

Land ownership is a contentious debate throughout South Africa. According to the census, 8 percent of the country’s population is white. Meanwhile, 72 percent of agricultural land is owned by white farmers.

The inequality in land ownership is without a doubt a reflection of a colonial-era and apartheid. Violence and attacks on white farmers may be another indicator of growing tension between different communities. Interestingly enough, violence of farms does not just affect the white farmers that own the land. Farmworkers also bare the burden, who are largely non-white. Dozens of non-white farmworkers have been killed since 2001.

Julius Malema, the leader of South Africa’s radical left wing Economic Freedom Fighters park, called on his followers in 2016 to occupy …. land that was taken from us by white people by force through genocide”.

Former policeman and expert at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, Johan Burger, argues that such impassioned language contributes to violence.

“There is more than one incident during which attackers claim that their actions are justified because the victims have stolen the land,” Burger recalls, “What is very difficult to explain is the level of exceptional violence. One could understand the torture of victims to gain access to a safe or get a PIN number and that may be true in many instances, but there are examples of victims tortured for many hours, sometimes even until death, after information is given up. Some say attackers are motivated purely by racial hatred but it is very difficult to quantify.”

Land reform is currently at the center of the nation’s political world. Earlier in the month, President Cyril Ramaphosa reassured an audience that land reformation is not a threat.

“Let us not see the issue of land as a reason to pack up and go … The future of the Afrikaner is intrinsically linked to the prosperity of the country as a whole,” he said.


Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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Shelby Hawkins
My name is Shelby, like the mustang, and I am an avid lover of photography, literature and desserts. I identify as a proud feminist and Pan-Africanist; hopefully that manifests in my writing.