Farm murder denialism speaks of moral decay

Ernst van Zyl asks why this is the only crime where people believe it is acceptable and praiseworthy to call victims liars

Farm murders denialism speaks of moral decay

31 August 2023

Something deeply disturbing happened this week, which I feel compelled to address.

On Tuesday 29 August AfriForum broke the news of a farm attack on a couple from Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. They were seriously assaulted on their farm while their attackers shouted, "Kill the Boer, kill the farmer". The female victim was stabbed with a spear, but both luckily survived the attack. Thanks to the quick response of the local farming community and civilian security structures, six suspects, including those in the getaway vehicle, were apprehended.

It is with a heavy heart that I read stories like these, even though some of us may feel that we have become desensitised after years of exposure to the brutality that characterises most farm attacks. However, something else accompanied this horror story, something that makes my stomach turn, my blood throb against my temples, and my appetite vanish: Denial. Sick, disgusting denial from people who called these poor victims liars before the blood on their farmhouse floor was dry.

This kind of behaviour betrays a deeper issue, a moral issue—more specifically, moral decay.

Why are farm murders the only violent crime where some people believe it is acceptable and praiseworthy to call the victims liars? Why are farm murders the only violent crime that journalists joke about on social media? Why are farm murders the only violent crime where those who raise awareness are insulted, mocked and slandered? Why are farm murders the only violent crime where insane levels of proof are demanded? Why are farm murders the only violent crime encouraged and romanticised by politicians? Why are farm murders the only violent crime where the knee-jerk reaction of some is to immediately respond by reciting South Africa’s general murder statistics like a mantra, instead of showing sympathy and empathy?

The only explanation that makes sense is that many people have fallen victim to moral decay – moral decay, which is tolerated and excused. I think one of the most prominent characteristics of our time is the fact that those who shout the loudest about racism or prejudice are often the biggest culprits when it comes to these abhorrent traits.

I grew up in a farming community. Most of my friends came from farms, which means I spent a lot of time on farms as a child. Since my childhood, I was exposed to farming as a noble profession. As Dirk Hermann says, ‟[Many of] them may not live on farms, but there is a piece of farm in every Afrikaner.” Dr Wikus Buys says there is a reason why English speakers call a yard a ‟yard" while the Afrikaans word for it is an ‟agterplaas” (the farm in the back). Our culture is so intertwined with farming that we are collectively known as the Boers.

Afrikaners who are not farmers themselves have relatives or friends who are farmers. Therefore, the reason why farm murders are so close to Afrikaners' hearts is an inherent issue. Today my Afrikaner heart again bleeds for our farmers and I pray for their safety. However, I also pray for those who have become so cold and heartless; I pray that God will restore their broken moral compasses.

N.P. van Wyk Louw rightly said, ‟Indeed, the ‛dark forcesʼ of selfishness, stupidity and unreasonableness are stronger in man than reasonableness.”

Organisations like AfriForum will continue to fight despite the monsters we encounter. We are not discouraged. Not even close.

Ernst van Zyl is a Campaign Officer for Strategy and Content at AfriForum and the director of the documentary film Selfbestuur. Ernst obtained a master's degree (cum laude) in Political Science at Stellenbosch University. He is a co-presenter of the Podlitiek podcast, hosts the Afrikaans podcast In alle Ernst and has a channel for political commentary and interviews on YouTube. Ernst usually publishes contributions on X (formerly known as Twitter) and YouTube under his pseudonym Conscious Caracal.