A violent wave of farm attacks has recently swept over the interior of South Africa, leaving several seriously injured and almost as many dead.
The issue of farm attacks has polarised South Africa for a
number of critical reasons. It’s not because of a lack of public compassion or
the absence of outrage over senseless killings but because of the racial
overtones attached to the violent incidents.
It’s the racial rhetoric attached to farm attacks which serve as a divisive and isolating force. In a country plagued by social inequality, largely along racial lines, entering into a battle of identity politics, which, more often than not, come with an ulterior agenda, negates the struggle for unity and progressive social cohesion.
How farm attacks became a stage for racial division
A few things are clear. Murder, in all its bloody forms, is fundamentally
wrong. South Africans know this all too well; on average, 57 people are killed
in the country every single day. According to crime statistics released by the
South African Police Service, this number is climbing, leaving behind it a wake
of broken families and terrified communities. Crime – particularly violent
crime – is a plague on South Africa.
In 2018, 62 crimes classed as farm murders were reported to local authorities. While the number of farm murders has decreased, the number of attacks have soared. Last year 433 farm attacks were reported. The statistics paint a harsh picture of rural farm life, with the ferocity of documented attacks making the picture that much grimmer.
The statistics, however valuable, are convoluted and largely
unclear when it comes to the critical definition of farm attacks and the racial
profiling of victims. While interlinked, the latter has been used to further
the rhetoric of a ‘white genocide’ – a dogma dispelled by statistics, alone.
To understand the true nature of farm attacks, we need to
dissect South Africa’s socioeconomic makeup. All farm attacks have one thing in
common; isolation. Rural communities and homesteads far from proper infrastructure
and permanent law enforcement efforts are targeted because they are vulnerable.
Criminals, of all shapes, sizes and dispositions, prey on circumstantial weaknesses.
The problem with crime statistics
The greatest failure of statistics provided is the inability to clearly define what constitutes a farm attack. A lack of clarity has, for the most part, resulted in a spurious statistical division along racial lines. Most farm owners are white and most labourers are not. The question is; if a farm labourer is murdered or attacked in their dwelling, does this constitute a categorised ‘farm attack’? If it does, then surely the argument for attacks being racially motivated falls flat. If it does not, why not?
At the forefront of the fight against farm attacks is civil rights group, AfriForum. The group, which seeks to protect the rights of Afrikaners and other minority groups, has been heavily criticised for sowing seeds of racial division. While the allegations, particularly pertaining to the coverage of farm attacks, are open to individual interpretation, reporting on criminality, in all its forms, should never be seen as disingenuous.
The crux of the matter lies in the ‘all its forms’ clause.
AfriForum has been the target of vitriol for attaching more meaning and
seriousness to the scourge of farm attacks, effectively prioritising the murder
of white South Africans above other killings.
AfriForum and the fight against farm attacks
But the general perception of the group’s alleged bias has, upon investigation, begun to shift, even if only incrementally. Looking at the group’s reporting of farm attacks and murder over the past two weeks exemplifies this shift but, more importantly, exposes AfriForum supporters to the truth that victims of farm attacks are not exclusively white. It’s not a startling revelation but, in the context of unmitigated white-fear, does well to enact some form of empathetic reasoning, which could, in time, foster a stronger sense of social cohesion across racial lines.
Rural communities, in their entirety – from landowners to labourers – need to be better protected. AfriForum has recently proposed a return of police reservists to protect isolated residents. This is not a bad idea but it needs to be implemented without bias.
Defeating the ‘racially motivated’ rhetoric
Ian Cameron, the head of Community Safety at AfriForum,
leads the charge against farm murders and, to his credit, has, at least in
recent weeks, dispelled the myth of race-based farm attacks. Whether
intentional or not, Cameron’s fight to expose all reported farm attacks has
cracked the mirror of divisive rhetoric.
FARM MURDER 13/4/19: Bela-Bela, Limpopo. 2 victims were surprised by an unknown number of assailants. One victim was shot below the chin and passed away. Wife was shot in the chest, ran away and taken to hospital by a neighbour. Possessions and a bakkie stolen. No arrests made. pic.twitter.com/YeUvf7Nsho
— Ian Cameron (@IanCameron23) April 14, 2019
On 14 April, Cameron reported on a farm murder which in Bela Bela, Limpopo. The heartless attack on the Maluleka family left a husband dead after being gunned down. Maluleka’s wife was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the stomach. The family’s possessions and vehicle were stolen in the attack.
FARM ATTACK 24/4/19: Onderstepoort, Gauteng. Elderly female victim assaulted by 7 armed suspects. Cash and cellphones were taken. pic.twitter.com/wIVoYesT34
— Ian Cameron (@IanCameron23) April 24, 2019
More recently, on 24 April, an elderly female victim was attacked
by seven armed suspects in Onderstepoort, Gauteng. The woman suffered head injuries
as a result of the attack, while robbers made off with cash and cell phones.
FARM ATTACK 19-22/4/19: Standerton, Mpumalanga. 77year old male victim, Petrus Selepe was violently assaulted. Suspects fled with victims bakkie and unknown number of cattle. Bakkie has been found but was badly damaged by attackers. pic.twitter.com/iwDP4WPH8H
— Ian Cameron (@IanCameron23) April 24, 2019
On the same day, in Standerton, Mpumalanga, a 77-year-old man,
Petrus Selepe, was violently assaulted by armed attackers. The attackers fled
with the victim’s vehicle and a number of cattle.
These are just three examples of recent attacks on rural residents which dispel the ‘racially motivated’ rhetoric. It’s likely that there are many more which are simply not reported, either to the police or to Cameron. Interestingly, Cameron’s reports do not specify race, which, in one way may be a purposeful decision to break down divisive barriers. This could be true, but for the fact that race forms a fundamental part of AfriForum’s socio-political ideology.
Either way, it is clear that South Africa’s rural
communities need to be protected. Agriculture, which forms the backbone of the
nation’s economy, is too vital an ecosystem to risk being further embattled by
the scourge of criminality.