Agri SA media release, 31 July 2020, photo credit: iStock/Hoodline
“The crime statistics announced by the Minister of Police do not reflect the sense of insecurity experienced by the farming community. The spate of farm attacks and murders, and especially the recent murders in the Vaalharts area, as well as the high levels of property-related crime, have brought the mood virtually to breaking point.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the situation and it is important to take note of this. These and other incidents of violence which affect the farming community as well as fellow South Africans on a daily basis are strongly condemned,” said Tommie Esterhuyse, chair of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Rural Safety.
The Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, released the latest national crime statistics this morning. It is disturbing that, according to the police, 49 farm murders occurred during the 2019/2020 financial year. This is 49 murders too many and has deprived the country of strategic skills in the agricultural sector and robbed it of the expertise that is so sorely needed to contribute towards economic growth and food security.
According to the statistics released this morning, murders in general have increased by 37% since 2011/2012. The murder figure for the 2019/2020 financial year was 1,4% higher than the previous year, which means that murders have been escalating in South Africa for the past eight years.
Other notable statistics released indicate that two of the so-called trio-crimes, namely business robberies and vehicle hijackings, further increased during the past year by 3,3% and 13,3%, respectively. Home robberies, however, declined by 5,8% compared to the previous year but are still 26% higher than the figure for 2011/2012. These are particular crimes experienced by farming communities on a daily basis and which detract from their quality of life.
We commend the Vaalharts community who yesterday under difficult circumstances marched in solidarity with the victims to the court where the suspects appeared. Through peaceful protest, they showed the country how to make their voices heard without resorting to arson and plunder. This should serve as a lesson to fellow South Africans. “Agri SA supports law-abiding actions such as this. We trust that the accused, if convicted, will receive the harshest possible sentences. These people do not belong in society!” said Esterhuyse.
The Agri Securitas Trust Fund’s work over the years to safeguard farming communities is praiseworthy and still yields excellent results. The Fund recently made financial contributions to various farmer associations to assist in improving the safety of farmers and farm workers. In a law-abiding society, this type of support would not be necessary.
Agri SA has already approached the Minister of Police for a meeting to discuss the safety of the agricultural community in an attempt to find solutions to the culture of violence experienced in farming areas. Agri SA will continue to represent its members’ interests in this regard. “We trust that such a meeting will take place soon,” said Esterhuyse.