Farm attacks and farm murders in 2014 - AfriForum/TAU SA

Organisations say a political climate in SA has been created which encourages and condones such attacks (Jan 15)

AfriForum and TAU SA

Farm attacks and farm murders in 2014

15 January 2015


This past weekend the president concluded the ruling party's 103rd birthday celebrations with the usual January 8th statement. The party has a tradition of using this opportunity to set out the status quo in respect of the country's issues and to outline the governing party's priorities for the year ahead. During the speech it was mentioned twice that farmers should do more to promote the rights and living conditions of farm workers.

No word was mentioned about the rights of farmers. Granted, these statements were made at a rally of the ANC as a political party and not at a meeting of the government, but we also take note of the fact that the ruling party hardly distinguishes between state and party. Therefore we consider the president's remarks this past weekend also as an indication of the government's priorities for the year ahead.

Both AfriForum and TAU SA have in recent years campaigned intensively for the prioritisation of murders. Details of this can be found on the respective organisations' websites.

We also take note of the fact that mass protest marches took place in France in the past week, following the 12 murders that were recently committed in Paris. We show solidarity with the victims and the protesters.

In South Africa, however, our situation is different. Since 1 January 1990, more than 1700 farm murders have been committed in South Africa. The fact that there is no large-scale uprising about this, could possibly be attributed to the fact these murders did not take place all at once, but gradually over a long period. Mass murders are inhuman, but systematic extinction over a long period can be even more catastrophic.

Attacks and murders during 2014

Despite the fact that the government acknowledged in the 1990s that farm murders are a crisis that must be prioritised, the commando system was terminated in 2003, without any reasons being communicated for this decision. The promise that this structure would be replaced by a similar structure that would fall under the South African Police Service (SAPS), has to date not been carried out. Since then, twelve years have passed.

Although there was a slight drop in farm murders, it appeared that there was an increase of about 25% was in farm attacks in 2007. In the same year, the police department decided that no further statistics on farm attacks and farms murders may be released. For this reason we say that farm murders were virtually deprioritised by the government.

Since then it was left up to the civil society to gather data themselves. In this regard, TAU SA is playing a leading role, and in general TAU SA's data is considered as the most reliable statistics in respect of farm attacks. AfriForum has also recently started to keep record of this.

Last week it was agreed that AfriForum and TAU's efforts to keep records of farm attacks would in future be done in collaboration. The master database will still be stored at TAU SA. AfriForum will also keep up a data base. AfriForum and TAU SA will, however, consolidate their respective databases once a week, to limit the chances of oversights to the minimum.

Since we do not have access to the information of the department of police, it is not possible for civil society to keep data up to date at the same level as it would be done by the department of police. If there are no reports about an incident in the media and if it not brought to our attention by the general public, there is no way that we can take note of it.

Consequently, the figures available to us are conservative estimates and should be considered as the minimum figures. We are convinced that the figures regarding farm murders are close to correct, but we are also aware that our figures regarding farm attacks in general are incomplete. The reason is that farm attacks have become so commonplace that those attacks in which no-one is killed, are no longer newsworthy and often go unnoticed.

With this in consideration, however, we can publish statistics on farm attacks and farm murders that were committed in 2014.

A total of 277 farm attacks were committed during 2014, of which the details could be verified by us. In the same year 67 farm murders could be verified. Although we believe that the numbers for farm murders are close to correct, it would be misleading to use these figures to calculate a ratio for the purpose of indicating how many murders occur per farm attack. The reason for this is, once again, that we believe that many farm attacks were committed during 2014 of which we are not aware.

Figure 1: Verified farm attacks and farm murders from 2010 to 2014

According to our statistics, since 1990 there has never been a year in which 277 farm attacks could be verified. The above chart also shows that since 2011 there has been a systematic increase in the annual number of farm murders.

The statement that farm murders have stabilised since there are more or less the same number of murders every year, is also misleading, as this argument does not take into account the annual decline in the number of farmers. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) calculated an estimated number of farm murders by comparing the number of commercial farmers who were killed per year to the total number of commercial farmers in South Africa in that year. In this way the ISS calculated the number of farm murders as a figure of murders per 100 000 per year:


If these attacks and murders are plotted on a map, it can clearly be seen that some areas are more vulnerable than others.

Attacks and murders up to now in 2015

During the morning of 12 January 2015, two farm attacks took place, during which three murders were committed. Since 1 January, a total of nine farm murders have already been committed. This is more than one farm murder every two days. If this trend is an indication of the rate of murders in 2015, it means that there will be more than 200 murders this year.

Details about the farm murders committed since the beginning of the year are as follows:




1 January

Hartbeespoort, North West

Four victims in the home. Man shot dead through window. His wife was shot in face and a round is stuck in her spine. Nothing stolen, not attempted to enter the house.

4 January

Rustenburg, North West

Family attacked. Man killed.

5 January

Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal

Farmer shot in the stomach. Vehicle, cell phone and laptop computer stolen. Vehicle recovered.

5 January

Sokhulu, KwaZulu-Natal

Farmer found by his wife in plantation with stab wounds to his chest.

6 January

Lephalale, Limpopo

Farm woman found with wire around her neck, strangled. Two cell phones and bakkie stolen. Suspect arrested.

8 January

Muldersdrift, Gauteng

Farmer and his wife tied together by four armed robbers. Man assaulted with a brick and a shovel until he succumbed to his injuries. His wife survived. Three suspects were arrested in connection with the incident.

12 January

Theunissen, Free State

Farm house set on fire, with woman's body in it. Hilux bakkie and firearms stolen. Suspects arrested. Vehicle recovered.

12 January

Bainsvlei, Free State

Couple tied up and robbed. Victims were shot and their bodies found 3km from their home, covered with branches. Suspects arrested.

Research on farm murders

In 2014 AfriForum involved a researcher with the object of making an in-depth study of farm attacks and farm murders. Lorraine Claasen, a specialist on farm murders, has been appointed for this purpose. The goal is to do at least sixty detailed case studies across South Africa. Interviews are conducted with, among others, victims, relatives of murder victims and farm workers. Claassen also intends to conduct interviews with convicted farm murderers. A thorough literature review is included in this research project, and several experts on the subject are already involved in the study. The study covers various aspects related to farm murders. During 2014 more than fifty case studies have already been completed. This study will be continued in 2015.

Kraal Publishers already agreed to publish the results of the study, not only in a report, but also in the form of a book. The launch of this will be in 2015 and more details will be announced later this year.

AfriForum and TAU SA would, however, like to appeal to all members of the public to approach either of these institutions if they had been affected personally by a farm attack or farm murder and if they are willing to participate in the study. The e-mail address [email protected] can be used for this purpose.

In conclusion

Both AfriForum and TAU SA want to express their concern about the political climate that has been created in South Africa, in terms of which violence against farmers is romanticised. Our experience is that South Africa's food producers are being used as political punching bags and that they are being marked by politicians as scapegoats for South Africa's crises. The fact that the ruling party is unwilling to take a stand in public for the protection of farmers' rights, is considered as a confirmation of this.

At the end of 2014, a Cape Town rap group published a song and music video published in which extremely offensive statements are made against whites in general, but against farmers in particular. The lyrics contain repeated calls to burn down the farm of a fictional farmer. However, we are more concerned about the fact that several so-called liberal commentators rallied themselves with this rap group. One commentator even described the song as a "brilliant work of art". It would thus appear that in certain circles there is a misconception of the realities with which South Africa's farmers are confronted on a daily basis.

The wave of farm murders that has engulfed the country is for AfriForum and TAU SA a confirmation that the police's rural safety plan is not effective. In the first place, we believe that the plan is misdirected, because no mention is made of farm murders. Any attempt to talk about rural safety without taking farm murders into account, will be futile. In the second place, the plan is not effective because it is not implemented at ground level.

AfriForum and TAU SA also wishes to declare that the argument that is sometimes raised from the ranks of the SAPS and the department of police, namely that farm murders are not effectively addressed because the police do not have sufficient resources available, is also not valid. The real problem is rather rooted in the fact that there is a lack of political will in both the SAPS and the police department to tackle the crisis.

Planned actions for 2015

AfriForum and TAU actively campaign for the prioritisation of farm murders. In the campaigns of both these organisations, however, an appeal is not only made to the government to intervene, but communities are also urged to attend to their own safety better, by becoming involved in community safety structures.

After several fruitless appeals to the government to prioritise farm murders, AfriForum and TAU SA decided to write a joint letter to the secretary-general of the ruling party, to discuss the matter at political level with the ANC leadership. This letter will be issued shortly.

Furthermore, both organisations agreed to intensify their respective campaigns in this regard:

Increasing of safety of house and home - use of new technology


Response capacity and contingency planning

Pressure on the SAPS


Communication within the country.

Actions planned by AfriForum:

Intensified campaign to declare farm murders a priority crime

Research on farm murders in book form

Establishment of a network of victim support

Establishment of and assistance to community safety networks

Internationalisation of the campaign against farm murders.

Gen Chris van Zyl: TLU

The unacceptable levels of violent crime on farms and agricultural smallholdings are continuing. In reality a sustainment of the current level amid a dwindling numbers of commercial farmers actually implies a per capita increase. This is confirmed by the ISS ratios which in the case of farmers show an increase of 98.8 in 2011; 120.4 in 2012; to 132.8 per 100,000 in 2013. The conclusions that can be made are as follows:

The Rural Safety Strategy of the SAPS is not effective.

In practice, no priority status is given to rural safety, with particular reference to agriculturally related crime.

The ongoing criminal assault on farm dwellers have an adverse effect on:

Food Security


The maintenance of the rural economy

Poverty in rural areas

Considering the above, a national rethinking is essential to limit the incidence of crime in rural areas and to ensure primary food production.

Recent (2012 - 2014) data















Vulnerable areas

Afflicted areas:

Gauteng - North of Pretoria (Wallmansthal)

Mpumalanga - Ermelo Corridor

Limpopo - Tzaneen and the Vivo Gap

North West - Brits and Rustenburg

Free State - Bloemfontein / Botshabelo

Newly activated areas:

KZN - Vryheid, Midlands and South Coast

Eastern Cape - Barkly East

2015 Planning

Increasing of safety of house and home - use of new technology


Response capacity and contingency planning

Pressure on the SAPS


Communication within the country

Lorraine Claasen: AfriForum

AfriForum is currently working on a national research project that focuses on farm attacks and farm murders. Because farm attacks are a complex issue that has an impact in many fields, it is extensively researched to include all perspectives in the study. It is planned to conduct interviews with 100 victims or their direct family members to gather some qualitative data. Workers who are left homeless and without income after attacks, will also be visited to document the impact of such an attack on their lives.

Discussions with stakeholders and experts on the subject will be included in the study. It includes interviews with academics, government officials, the SAPS, politicians, agricultural unions and researchers. The purpose of the study is to compile a credible source about the crimes that can be submitted to the government as well as international platforms, where this matter can receive the necessary attention.

The findings will be made available to the public by August 2015.

In the research on the subject, many obstacles must be overcome. One is the large dark figure of attacks of which we are not aware. Some attacks are reported to us, or we read about it in the media, but we currently do not have access to information of every farm attack that is committed. We already know that the SAPS annual crime statistics do not mention farm attacks and farm murders specifically. These crimes are categorised as robbery and murder, respectively.

In order to do credible and valid research on this, it is very important to be informed of all cases, so that the total extent of the crimes can be studied. Trends can be identified and different modus operandi in different regions, for example, can be valuable for safety networks to establish proactive strategies.

Therefore AfriForum and TAU appeal to the public to report farm murders and farm attacks to either of the organisations, so that it can be recorded in our databases. We understand that being a victim of such an attack, results in shock; mourning if a loved one is killed; physical and psychological wounds that need to heal; as well as frustration and uncertainty. However, it is essential to pass on the information to us. Our intention is not make the individual cases known in the media, but to be sure that our database is as complete as possible.

Attacks can be reported at, or by contacting AfriForum or TAU directly.

Visit for more information.

Issued by AfriForum, January 15 2015

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