Farmers not uniquely vulnerable to armed attack - SAIRR

Institute says number of attacks per 100 000 farmers comparable to criminal attacks in rest of population

Farmers not uniquely vulnerable to armed attack

The number of farm attacks per 100 000 farmers and their families is comparable to the number of criminal attacks per 100 000 people in the general population. This is according to an analysis of farm attack data conducted by the South African Institute of Race Relations. Because the South African Police Service does not publish data on farm attacks, the Institute relies on data collected by the Transvaal Agricultural Union. According to this data there were 108 confirmed cases of attack in 1994 and 85 in 2011.

The analysis is complicated by the fact that there have been numerous fluctuations in the number of farm attacks over this period. For example, there were 70 attacks in 1996 but 133 in 1999 before the number fell to 82 in 2004 and rose to 184 in 2008. The highest number of farm attacks occurred in 2002, with 229 attacks across the country.

The data refers to attacks on farms and smallholdings aimed at residents, workers, and visitors to the farms or smallholdings. An attack is defined as the intention to murder, rape, rob, or inflict bodily harm and includes all actions aimed at disrupting farming activities as a commercial concern. The motives for attacks are not specified. Cases related to domestic violence, drunkenness, or resulting from commonplace social interaction between people are excluded from this definition.

According to Institute calculations, in 2011 the number of attacks per 100 000 farmers and farmworkers in the formal sector was 16.8. If it is assumed that farmworkers are not targeted and that attacks are aimed at commercial farmers and their families only, the rate of attack was 45.8 per 100 000 (assuming three dependants each).

It is difficult to benchmark farm attacks against other types of crimes. However, the rates calculated above are broadly comparable to rates per 100 000 people for other serious crimes among the general population.

For example, in 2011 South Africa had a murder rate of 31.9 per 100 000 people. In that year the house robbery rate was 33.4 per 100 000. The total aggravated robbery rate was 203 per 100 000.

The Institute's deputy CEO, Frans Cronje, said that the analysis did not indicate that farm attacks were not a problem. Rather it revealed just how vulnerable all South Africans are to violent crime.

Statement issued by the South African Institute of Race Relations, October 5 2012

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter