- Posted February 8, 2013 by
Some go as far as claiming that there is a political motive behind these attacks, with the objective of forcing white farmers off the land. Indeed, people like Dr Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch go even further and claim that the nature and extent of farm murders show worrying signs of genocide.
On the other hand, there are those who argue that the criminal victimisation of farmers is no different than that faced by South Africans in general.
The absence of proper statistics contributes to the confusion and lack of clarity on the issue. For example, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), using statistics inter alia from the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TAUSA), concluded in a press statement on 5 October 2012 that farmers were not uniquely vulnerable to armed attacks when compared to the general population.
However, a week later on 11 October, the SAIRR announced that on the basis of new information received it was prepared to concede that farmers (exclusive of their families and workers) were ‘twice as likely’ to be murdered in South Africa than ordinary citizens.
Back in 1997, the South African Government used to believe that farmers were ‘uniquely’ targeted for violent and murderous attacks.
Given that farms play a crucial role in ensuring the country’s food security, in 1997 the Minister of Safety and Security, Sydney Mufamadi, called for a joint task team comprising members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and organised agriculture to develop a plan to improve security on farms.
This resulted in what became known as the Rural Protection Plan (RPP) in the same year. In 1999, a Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (JOINTS) Priority Committee on Rural Safety chaired by a senior police officer with the rank of Major General was established to ensure that rural safety was managed as a national security priority.
The seriousness of the situation caused the SAPS to include figures for farm attacks and murders in its annual reports from 2001/02 to 2006/07. In 2001, the Minister of Police directed the SAPS National Commissioner to establish a Committee of Inquiry into farm attacks.
In 2003, the Committee published its findings that, among others, 89,3% of the attacks against farms were primarily criminal in nature for the purposes of robbery, with no evidence being found to support allegations that there were political motives behind these crimes.
Then President Thabo Mbeki, without any consultation or prior warning, announced the closing down of the ‘commandos’, the cornerstone of the RPP. He stated that the SAPS would replace the commandos with an alternative system consisting of police reservists, crime combating units and sector policing.
The SAPS in its annual reports after 2006/07 stopped reporting on farm attacks and murders and a new Rural Safety Strategy (RSS) was adopted in 2011. The RSS is not focused on the security of farms, but is aimed at rural security in general. In essence this means that the government no longer regards farm security as a priority.
Was the government right to stop prioritising farm security? According to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry, there were 6 122 farm attacks in the decade between 1991 and 2001, resulting in 1 254 murders.