Thousands of signatures on DA’s letter to President shows those living in rural areas have had enough
8 October 2020
Note to Editors: Please find attached a soundbite by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP.
The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) petition attached to our open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa has received almost 55 000 signatures to date. This petition, launched in July, called for the President to apologize for his untrue and hurtful remarks in a 2018 interview, when he denied that farm murders were taking place in South Africa. We called on him to take urgent action regarding the perpetual fear and danger our rural men and women live and work in as they grow the very food we eat.
It cannot be that the Government and Parliament continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of farmers, farmworkers, their parents, wives, and children who suffer cruel, senseless and often deadly torture at the hands of criminals.
It cannot be that an 80-year old woman is attacked on her farm in Zastron by a prisoner released by the Minister of Justice. She was left for dead across the border in Lesotho.
It cannot be that this President fails to so much as acknowledge the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele’s outrageous comments to the Normandien-farmers in KwaZulu-Natal or the gruesome death of 21-year-old Brendin Horner on a Paul Roux-farm in the Free State.
During her speech at the DA Debate of National Importance the Chairperson of the Police Portfolio Committee, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, claimed that farm murders and farm attacks have always been a priority for the ANC government. Since when? The President categorically denied that farm murders existed during that infamous 2018 interview.
Violence in rural areas has been steadily increasing over the years, and vicious, life-altering attacks on farms today are on average 50 per month. Instead of intervening, the government chose to dissolve specialised units and left rural communities vulnerable and alone. It seems that if rural safety were solely dependent on the political will of the Minister of Police and the President, nothing will ever be done.
As much as violence should never beget violence, the protest in Senekal clearly shows that farm murders and attacks have emotions at a boiling point, and it does not take much for some members of a peaceful protest to turn to violence to express their frustration and anger.
As much as the farmers themselves try to protect their families and the lives of those working on their farms, the reality is that it is no longer a question of "Have you ever been attacked" but "When will you be attacked". We need the President to step up and ensure that the government finally comes to the party. These rural attacks must be classified as Priority Crimes as well as hate crimes . Cele must be overruled.
Unless this is done, we South Africans might well join Zimbabwe in holding out a begging bowl for food.
The DA finds the National Commissioner of the South African Police, General Khehla Sitole’s announcement that the South African Police Service (SAPS) will establish national and local Joint Rural Safety Command Centres in rural areas across South Africa, so encouraging. It is the first positive, pro-active move we have seen on the part of the police.
Farming is already an incredibly dangerous and stressful vocation. The constant fear felt by farmers of all races, and employees of all races in South Africa has nearly unbearable.
Since there has been no response from the President on our open letter, the DA will send this letter to him directly, and deliver the petition to Parliament. It is time the President prioritised the scourge of farm murders in South Africa. Turning a blind eye, ignoring his duty as the leader of our nation, has ended in bloodshed and violence. He must man-up and do his job.
Issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard, DA Shadow Minister of State Security, 8 October 2020