The civil rights organisation AfriForum today directed a formal letter to Parliament to request a public hearing on farm murders. The letter is directed to Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police, after a sharp increase in farm attacks over the past two months.
According to Ernst Roets, Head of Policy and Action at AfriForum, there were 40 farm attacks in June this year, in which five people were murdered. In July there were 40 farm attacks, during which nine people were murdered and in August so far there were eight farm attacks, during which one person was murdered. In its letter to Joemat-Pettersson, AfriForum specifically requests that organisations who are involved in the fight against farm murders be afforded the opportunity to present possible solutions to the Committee. This is now especially important in light of the crime statistics that were released last week, as well as the statement by Gen. Khehla Sitole, National Police Commissioner, that farm attacks should enjoy greater priority within the SAPS.
“It can be pointed out – as members of the South African government have done – that the number of people who are murdered on farms constitutes only a small percentage of the total number of people who are murdered in South Africa. However, this argument is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of statistics, because the farming community also constitutes a small percentage of the total number of people in South Africa,” Roets argues in his letter to Joemat-Pettersson. He adds that the following facts must be considered when farm murders are evaluated:
- The frequency at which these attacks occur, also considering the size of the group;
- The unique levels of brutality and violence displayed during these attacks;
- The role that the agricultural community plays in South Africa, particularly with regard to food production and job opportunities; and
- The fact that farmers mostly live far away from their neighbours and the nearest police stations.
AfriForum therefore believes that farm murders should enjoy increased priority with government, Roets says – not because farmers are entitled to special treatment, but because they are entitled to equal treatment.
“We plead for equal treatment for farmers because it is standard priority to develop focused counter-strategies in reaction to unique crimes that have far-reaching consequences. This does not seem to be the case with farm murders, however.”