Western Cape
Farm murders still make headlines
10:21 (GMT+2), Fri , 10 October 2014
Western Cape
"The majority of farm murders are accompanied by cruelty and it creates the impression that it is racially and politically driven. It is long since time that an investigation is done into the cruelty of specifically farm murders," Dr. Pieter Groenewald (MP), the chief spokesperson on Police for the Freedom Front Plus, says. For years farm murders had dominated headlines in the South African media. Last month AfriForum claimed that the ruling government has, over the past decade, de-prioritised the combating of these crimes. To prove and support this claim members of AfriForum compiled a report in conjunction with Ernst Roets, deputy CEO, AfriForum (editor), Lorraine Claassen, criminologist, Ian Cameron, head of community safety, AfriForum and Nantes Kelder, head of investigations, AfriForum. "AfriForum has compiled this report for consideration by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) at the national hearing relating to safety and security in farming communities." AfriForum is particularly concerned about the wave of violence that has plagued rural areas in recent years. The report states that the issue at hand is not merely a concern for AfriForum because of the fact that many of its members have also become victims of violence, but because AfriForum's members across the board regard farm attacks, and the South African government's failure to in curb this phenomenon, as one of the country's most pressing concerns. Consequentially, campaign for the prioritising of farm attacks is one of AfriForum's main campaigns. In the report it states that various victims who have either survived farm attacks or who have lost loved ones as a result of such attacks have also approached AfriForum in recent years. "Many of these victims requested assistance in dealing with a local police department that did not properly investigate the crime in question, and many of them asked to become involved with AfriForum's campaign for the prioritising of farm attacks." This is also the reason why AfriForum approached the SAHRC in May 2013. "It is AfriForum's respectful submission that both the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the department of police are grossly negligent in addressing the issue of farm attacks and farm murders," the report reads. A police source said that farm attacks are in fact a priority of the police, but that these crimes are regarded as ‘normal crimes'. The context of this statement was an explanation that there was not enough merit in AfriForum's argument that farm attacks should be treated as a so-called priority crime. The representative's point was that the department of police was looking into farm attacks, but that there was no sufficient argument as to why these crimes should receive ‘preferential treatment'. But AfriForum members disagree. "It is a basic policing principle that unique crimes should be countered with unique counter-strategies. It would be an enormous blunder if the poaching of rhinoceroses in the Kruger National Park, for example, was depicted as ‘normal poaching' that should be dealt with in exactly the same way as all other (and less extensive) forms of poaching are dealt with across the country. The point is that the poaching of rhinos is not only unique in the way that it occurs, but also in the consequences. This particular phenomenon within the crime of poaching requires a unique counter-strategy, despite the fact that it can still be narrowed down to ‘normal' poaching.The reality is that farm attacks and farm murders are very unique. This uniqueness justifies a unique counter-strategy. Farm attacks are not only unique in the circumstances surrounding these attacks and the way in which these crimes are committed, but also in the consequences thereof. Broadly speaking, there are four reasons why farm attacks and farm murders are unique," according to the report. During 2014 the agricultural union, TAU SA, calculated the farm-murder rate for 2013 at 130 per 100 000 per year. According to these figures the number of murders on farmers is more than twice as high as the murder rate of police officials in South Africa, which is put at 55 per 100 000 per year. This is already more than four times the South African murder average, which is one of the highest in the world at 31 per 100 000 per year, and more than 17 times the world average for murder, which is put at about 7 per 100 000 per year. It should be noted that the abovementioned calculations were made to determine the rate at which commercial farmers are murdered in South Africa, while commercial farmers are not the only victims of farm attacks.Although it is true that more murders are committed in South Africa's informal settlements than on farms, the point often neglected is the fact that these crimes have to be viewed in proportion. Farm murders should be seen within the context of the fact that there are only about 35 000 commercial farmers in South Africa. Thus, proportionately speaking, it is safe to say that murders on commercial farmers are excessively higher than murders within other communities. The extreme brutality of farm murders is in many cases totally unrelated to the value of the items stolen in such attacks, leading one to suspect that robbery is often not the motive in these crimes. South Africa is an agriculturally rich country, ensuring employment to thousands of workers in rural areas where employment opportunities are scarce. The state president has repeatedly stated that job security and job creation should be at the top of the government's agenda. Farmers are employers and play an important role in terms of job creation, food security and the economy. The most important motivation for the AfriForum campaign for the prioritisation of farm murders, however, is the fact that farmers live in unique circumstances. Farms are isolated, usually far from the nearest town or city and often only accessible by gravel roads. Intervention by the local police and even by concerned neighbours cannot take place within a matter of minutes. The circumstances of farmers certainly cannot be compared to those of citizens living in urban areas. Even if the other factors that contribute to the uniqueness of farm attacks were irrelevant, this factor alone is sufficient reason to acknowledge that farm attacks should be countered with a unique counter-strategy.

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