COMMENT

South Africans must unite against farm attacks

John Steenshuisen says a united front is needed against the EFF's irresponsible opportunism

Straight Talk

9 October 2020

Young farm manager Brendin Horner’s brutal torture and murder may come to mark a tipping point for South Africa. It could strengthen radical groupings on the left and right, further polarizing and racialising our society, risking a rural civil war of sorts. Or it could strengthen the centre, spurring South Africans from all communities to come together against this attack on our farming community and food security and more broadly against lawlessness.

The EFF has been quick to use this issue to incite violence. On Wednesday, Malema tweeted “Magwala a chechele morago! (Cowards move to the back) Fighters attack!” in response to Tuesday’s incident of violence outside the Senekal Magistrate’s Court where the two men accused of Horner’s murder appeared. EFF MP Nazier Paulsen posted a picture of a machine gun captioned “Get ready!” Racial hatred and division are the lifeblood of their political support.

This reckless, irresponsible opportunism must meet a united front against violence, criminality and racism. South Africa’s society is growing evermore fragile and volatile. Those in the centre need to stand together behind a powerful set of principles: the rule of law, equality before the law, non-violence, and nonracialism. Only with these principles and a plan to enforce them will we overcome the forces tearing our country apart.

There is absolutely no justification for farm attacks, no matter the race of victim or perpetrator. This brutality is a sickness and a crime against our humanity. These crimes cannot continue to be committed with impunity. It is only when people demand and see accountability that criminality and violence will decline. There is also no justification for the destruction of public property as we saw in Senekal this week, no matter the race of the perpetrator. All must be equal before the law, and the law must be able to run its course.

This moment calls for strong, uniting leadership. President Ramaphosa needs to break his silence and condemn farm attacks. He should unequivocally retract his infamous 2018 denial of farm murders. When EFF members attend the second hearing of Horner’s attackers next week as Malema has called on them to do, these “fighters” as he calls them will be looking for a fight with those whose anger and frustration is at boiling point. President Ramaphosa should call for peace to prevail and make it clear that violence will not be tolerated.

His government has a constitutional duty to promote tolerance and the protection of all citizens. He should replace Police Minister Bheki Cele who has failed to take decisive action and refused to classify farm attacks as priority crimes even though it is today four times more dangerous to be on a farm than in other areas of SA. Instead Cele has aggravated the situation, most recently this morning by attempting to blame farmers themselves for farm attacks.

Farm attacks must be classified as priority crimes, so that more resources, manpower and expertise can be dedicated to fighting them. Farming is already an incredibly high-risk vocation in South Africa, not just because farming is so heavily dependent on the weather, but also because of the threat of expropriation of farms. The constant fear felt by farmers and farmworkers is becoming unbearable. Make no mistake, this coordinated attack on our farming community is also an attack on our food security.

The DA has called for a debate of national importance in Parliament and a joint ministerial summit on rural safety. Government can no longer turn a blind eye to this escalating crisis. We need to see a massive increase in research and statistics on this issue. Crime intelligence and investigative capacity must be boosted in rural areas.

Fully outfitted, dedicated rural policing units must be reestablished. Farm patrols must be supported and court watching briefs must be allocated to closely track court investigations and court proceedings to ensure attackers end up behind bars.

More broadly, the DA will continue to drive the issue of land ownership and financial support for emerging farmers and we will continue to fight expropriation without compensation. These are two areas of policy failure putting immense pressure on South Africa’s farming community.

There is uncertainty about the motives behind farm attacks but there can be no uncertainty amongst law-abiding South Africans that enough is enough. Let us unite behind the rule of law, equality before the law, non-violence and nonracialism. The vast majority of South Africans are tolerant, peace-loving and law-abiding. We cannot let our society be sabotaged by the radical, violent few. We must stand together and demand accountability.

Warm regards,

John Steenhuisen