Open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Farm Murders
19 July 2020
On September 26, 2018 you spoke to financial news service Bloomberg on the sidelines of the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York. In the interview, you said that there were "no killings of farmers… white farmers in South Africa.”
In fact farmers (black and white), farm workers (black and white), and visitors to farms (black and white) were being killed, and are still being killed today. These murders often involve the most terrible torture of the farmers and farm workers, their parents, their wives, and their children. What you said then was false.
You in fact contradicted yourself in that 2018 Bloomberg interview, because in November 2017, in the NCOP you said: "We condemn the farm killings that continue to take place in our country, because we can never justify any form of taking of life. The farm killings must be brought to an end."
We are not sure of your motivation in denying to the world 10 months later that these heinous murders, tortures and kidnappings were taking place.
We, as the Official Opposition, ask that you, Sir, put this matter to rest once and for all. In 2018, when you made this claim, there were 54 farmers and farm workers who were horribly murdered on South African farms and smallholdings. There were 394 vicious attacks.
Farmers and farm workers in South Africa, instead of being supported as workers within a Strategic Asset, feel today that they have become persona non grata as the Police Strategy fails them year after year. In 2017and 2018 combined there were 136 murders on farms, a figure which contradicts what you announced to the world.
This year, during this lockdown period, we have seen a large increase in attacks on farms and smallholdings, I believe because your government chose to stop the patrolling systems the farm owners had set up for themselves, in an attempt to keep their families safe. In April there were 17 farm attacks, and one murder, in May 19 attacks and four murders and in June 56 attacks and seven murders – so 12 murders and 88 attacks in those three months alone.
The IRR determined that the murder rate among farmers is 108 per 100 000, as opposed to 34 murders per 100 000 non-farmers in 2016/'17, when you made the comment. So it was then, as it is today, nearly four times more dangerous to be on a farm, than in other areas of South Africa. In 2018 there were 394 attacks and 56 murders. In 2019 there were 419 attacks and 56 murders.
We are still told by farmers and farm workers today that your denial that they are being murdered caused them extreme hurt and offence, in that it was just not true. The belief is that your remark led to the reality that in rural areas the police stations are undercapacitated and rarely have sufficient equipment and vehicles to deal with normal day-to-day crime, let alone patrol the deep rural areas or implement the Rural Safety Strategy.
There is a belief that your comment freed up elements in our country who openly call for those who work on farms to be tortured to death.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has requested a Debate of National Importance in the National Assembly so we may pool our collective wisdom and find solutions to this scourge, but there has been scant comment from the side of government indicating that it is paying this problem any attention at all. Unfortunately, this is not out of character for a government that likes to praise farmers when they need them but is never forthcoming with assistance of any kind to the farming community when it is in crisis.
Your comment cuts as sharply today as it did in 2018, and at a time when children are being shot in their beds, a pregnant woman has her throat slit in front of her screaming children, and while a man is chopped to pieces with a panga – we would ask that you retract that statement.
We ask, Sir, that you not only retract that statement, but apologise to the men and women in our rural areas who are living in fear while still working 24/7 to feed our country.
Only then will they begin to feel like valued members of this Strategic Asset in our country, as they continue to work day and night to feed our great nation
Issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard, DA Shadow Minister of State Security, 19 July 2020