by: Mircea Negres
Unlike the NYPD, the South African Police Service only publishes crime statistics once a year. This is seen by experts and ordinary citizens as useless because the numbers and trends are always behind the times, while the statistics themselves are often believed to be unreliable if not outright “massaged” to present a rosier picture than is actually the case. I say this because there have been numerous instances of cops refusing to open cases and it often happened that they would downgrade the reported crime by turning a rape into an indecent assault, attempted murder into aggravated assault, breaking and entering got turned into trespassing or malicious damage to property and so on. Furthermore, there was a period during either Jackie Selebi or Bheki Cele’s administrations when the police stations with the lowest crime statistics would get a R3.000 bonus per cop. As you can imagine, a lot of cases were not opened, seriousness of offences downgraded, case files disappeared both physically and from the computer system and police response time to crimes not only lengthened, but in many instances cops didn’t even bother to show up. I can testify to the truth of this based on my acquaintance with serving policemen who told me what was going on, dealing with crime victims who were not helped by the cops they went to (and in one case a cop actually destroyed evidence), as well as personal experience during my time in private security.
Basically, publishing the South African crime statistics is what I like to call “the annual SAPS creative writing competition”, so when it comes to understanding the crime situation of an area, I often advise those who ask me to contact the local private security firms which provide armed response services and their insurance companies, because they have up to date information and advice. I mention this because statistics for the year 2016 showed an increase of 3 or 6% in farm murders, and for a week or so after the release of these figures, the issue was a topic of political discussion. That talk is over, but farm murders continue unabated and the question is why.
Providing answers is not easy, though broadly speaking farm murders happen for the following reasons: 1) Farms are often in isolated rural areas, which makes for slow police response. 2) Criminal, social or employment-related problems on farms are very slowly dealt with, if at all, and in some cases farmers are targeted by frustrated employees. 3) In a lot of the cases I heard of, it was clear that most of the attacked farmers did not take basic security precautions and as a result, weapons were in safes instead of on their persons; doors, windows, security gates and alarms were not locked and activated. 4) Where attacks occurred, it was revealed that farm workers either took part in the attacks or had at least provided information and tacit support (eg. by not warning the farmer) to the attackers. 5) The Commando system was deactivated on orders of then-South African president Thabo Mbeki, over the period between 2003 and 2009, a process which was actually completed in 2008. 6) Absent the Commandos, rural protection duty was placed on the shoulders of the South African Police Service (SAPS), whose primary focus is to provide urban area security and law enforcement, thus creating a security gap in which rural criminals operate almost unfettered. 7) By far, the biggest concern is that farmers are deliberately targeted in order to get their land because a) government efforts to give land bought from white farmers to black people have been very slow and often inefficient, which not only led to frustration among the part of the African National Congress’ electoral support base which wants that land, but b) also led to heightened tensions between farmers and the local populace which these days are driven by the populist rhetoric of both president Jacob Zuma and Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader Julius Malema, who have been calling for the expropriation without compensation of land held by white farmers.
So, what’s going on? Once again, broadly speaking, what we often read about in the South African press are stories of utterly horrifying attacks which are carried out with almost medieval barbarity. I’m talking about old people having boiling water poured on them to reveal hidden safes full of money and guns (which often only exist in their black attackers’ imaginations), being cut up or drilled with power tools, raped and otherwise so badly beaten that often 65-80 year-old farmers linger for days until they die due to sustained injuries.
The way this normally happens is first through target reconnaissance, the resulting information being passed along to the follow-up attackers via markers such as soft drink cans of certain brands, sheaves of grass folded in certain ways, chalk and paint marks, etc. left near the farm gate, the removal of which is usually punished by vicious attack upon the “offender” by the criminals. Add to it strained relations between a farmer and some or all of his workers, a police service which does not devote adequate numbers of cops and logistical support, slow response times due to poor road conditions (many farmers have been fixing the roads at their own expense because the government doesn’t do it) and distance, many farmers’ complacency or refusal to take the necessary active measures to maintain security as well as these people’s general old age and physical feebleness, and what you get is a murder rate which is more than twice that suffered by cops (SAPS personnel die at a rate of 52 per 100.000 a year, while farmers are killed at a rate of 114 per 100.000 a year), this not only leading to a drop in the number of farmers from 330.000 in 1994 to 300.000 by 2010, but increasing national food insecurity because many farmers these days are switching to wildlife (antelopes, gazelles, lions, cheetahs, etc.) farming, causing an increase in food prices and reduction of quantity (not to mention quality) available on the market.
Besides that, many farmers (at least hundreds, but widely believed to be thousands) have left South Africa to work in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, where they are given 99 year land leases and minimal hassles for producing food. When you add to it what Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema are saying about expropriation of land without compensation (with the often implied threats of criminal proceedings or attacks against farmers who refuse to comply), what we get are the often mutilated corpses of nearly 4.000 people who once diligently tilled the red soil of South Africa to feed its people.
While this is going on, and after the 2016 crime statistics were released a month ago or so, we had some articles written in newspapers and news websites, politicians spoke a few sympathetic words and the country moved on to fret over ANC and South African president Jacob Zuma’s apparent defiance of an ANC policy on so-called “land redistribution” which called for the maintenance of the “willing seller, willing buyer” principle while Zuma and Malema want it done through expropriation- and farmers keep dying. “What’s going on with farm murders? Are they genocidal in nature?”
These are two of the questions being pondered over the last 9 years or so in the wake of the Commandos’ disbandment, as well as sporadic calls for something to be done about the poor state of rural security. Organizations such as Red October and a lot of people in general seem to think farm murders amount to genocide. I believe this to be wrong on at least two counts. First, a genocide involves large numbers, usually from 100.000 victims upwards. Second, there needs to be a central authority structure with a nationwide plan that is put into action with the aim of killing as many of the targeted group(s) as possible. Neither of these components are present when one looks at farm murders. In fact, these attacks usually target single farms, are often motivated by individual factors such as labor disputes or desire to rob the targeted farmer, and there is no known policy to attack farms and farmers on a national scale. When it comes to genocide and coordinated attempts to target land owners in order to force expropriation, the best examples I can think of are the Ukrainian famine engineered under Stalin in the 1930s (the Holodomor) and the estimated 300.000 land owners and peasants killed by the Romanian communist regime between 1945 and 1965 because they resisted the state’s collectivization efforts.
However, just because it’s not genocide per se does not mean the gruesome murders of nearly 4.000 mostly Afrikaner farmers and their families should be tolerated or worse, allowed to go on. Pursuant to this, anybody with half a brain will ask a simple question- “what is being done”? The answer is neither simple nor encouraging. On the one hand, it is clear the ANC-led government and SAPS do not devote the necessary manpower and resources to provide rural security like the now-defunct Commandos did, and on the other, the security effort in terms of intelligence, resources, command, control, communications and operations is primarily driven by the private sector (farmers, some of their workers, private security firms and groups such as AfriForum – an Afrikaner support and lobby group- and Transvaal Agricultural Union. This means the effort is usually local, there’s little national-level coordination and successes are fewer than would’ve been the case had the government been more involved.
By and large farmers are predominantly Afrikaners, with a smattering of Englishmen and a few of so-called “emerging farmers” (black farmers trying to make a go of land they were given by the government, all too often ending in abject failure like the biggest tea plantation in the southern hemisphere, located in Lusikisiki). It is possible this is one reason why some people in government are consciously refusing to address the problem of farm murders, perhaps in order to get some sort of retribution for apartheid and on a piecemeal basis cause the transfer of white-owned farms into black people’s hands. That at least is what a lot of white South Africans think, and it makes sense given what is happening. Furthermore, this perception is quite prevalent among farmers and the fear it has engendered made for increasingly violent relations between white farmers and their black employees or locals.
Farmers were subsidized by the government until 1996 and price controls were in effect for every type of agricultural produce. Despite the arid conditions found in South Africa, farmers not only fed the country with high quality produce, but had more than enough to export. The decision by the ANC-led government to terminate subsidies, ignore farm road maintenance for more than 20 years and disband rural security units imposed heavy burdens on farmers and forced them to sell their food on the open market at dollar prices. The cumulative effect of policies and farm murders not only alienated farmers, but also caused increasing hardship for the average South African, making the country and its people nearly ripe for a populist takeover by black supremacist and nationalist elements which envisage driving white people, their political parties and sympathizers into the sea. At least one senior ANC figure said it in public while urging the crowd to burn down the country’s oldest newspaper, and given two decades of anti-white rhetoric (from the days when Peter Mokaba sang in public “Shoot the Boer, kill the farmer” and “One settler, one bullet” until Jacob Zuma’s recent comments about repealing the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle a few weeks ago.
Whether the ANC and its supporters like it or not, this picture of imminent genocide is what they have put in most white South Africans’ minds, for if the nation is not quite at the genocide stage yet, it certainly appears to be heading that way. Back in 2010, a little while after Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging’s (AWB) leader Eugene Terre’Blanche was murdered, a senior guy in the Weekend Post newspaper named Thabo Leshilo tried to downplay the importance of farm murders to the nation. It was seven years ago, but what I wrote in the letter which follows below is sadly and lethally valid to this day. To understand some of the references in this letter, the reader is advised to search on Youtube for a song called “De la Rey” by Afrikaans singer Bok van Blerk, preferably a version with the English translation of the lyrics. At the same time, I also recommend looking at how the government and the media tried to damage the reputation of Eugene Terre’Blanche after he was murdered and ask yourselves why they did that not just to him, but to almost everybody who’s tried over the last 20 years to be a voice or leader of the white and in particular, Afrikaner people in this country… Furthermore, reading the Wikipedia article on the South African Commandos will give a little more understanding of who they were and what they did, as well as give a perspective on what their absence means.
Furthermore, at least three terms need to be explained to the non-South African reader: “knobkierie” is a wooden stick with bulbous top end, often used as a mace to hit people with. A “panga” is a machete, while MK refers to uMkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC’s former military wing.
I thank you for reading thus far and ask your forgiveness for not being able to give a fuller or better explanation of what is going on, while urging you to read the letter below, which was published in the Weekend Post newspaper of Port Elizabeth, South Africa sometime in 2010. As before, it is written exactly as it appeared, and it needs to be said that the phrase “Thabo Leshilo wanted “scientific proof” as to whether white farmers are being deliberately targeted.” doesn’t make sense, but this is due to editing by the newspaper as what followed took up more space than they were willing to give the letter.
“White farmers left at mercy of attackers by uncaring ANC”.
(Double standards: Why is “De la Rey” rejected while songs that promote genocide still encouraged?)
When a white pensioner in Port Elizabeth shot dead two or three black burglars on his property around two years ago, the Weekend Post tried to portray the man as some kind of geriatric version of The Punisher and, if memory serves, even ran an opinion poll to see if people though vigilantism was right. When Bok van Blerk came out with his De la Rey song, political parties said it was “a call to arms” and to this day, nobody plays it on the radio. That it was actually about the concentration camps in which hundreds of thousands of Afrikaner women and children died due to British neglect, the “scorched earth” policy and General De la Rey did not matter. It was seen as racist and inflammatory by black people, so that was that.
The Thabo Mbeki administration saw to it that the SAPS were incapable of securing our national borders. The SANDF disbanded the Commandos and was kept chronically starved of funds, badly trained and equipped so that millions of undocumented migrants could jump the fence. Besides the usual political and economic refugees, members of terrorist organisations also found this opportunity too tempting to resist. When both police and the army became visibly incapable of securing our borders, the farmers in the region became de facto border guards, which brought them into conflict with the government authorities, human traffickers and migrants.
Yes, most of those farmers are white and the illegal immigrants are black. Because South Africa has no facilities to house, feed and process immigrants, they are left to fend for themselves and due to many factors, immigrants commit crimes to feed themselves. These range from petty theft to robbery and murder. The farmers- alone, outnumbered and abandoned- have become frustrated and are in constant fear for their lives.
As a result, the way they respond to crime on their farms has become increasingly harsh and violent, leading to a corresponding increase in violence from those who seek to rob, rape, torture and murder farmers and their families. The feeling of being abandoned by the government has given rise to the belief that the ruling party is going out of its way to get rid of white farmers by violent means and this is reflected by statements in the media, especially since the murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche.
This is not helped by reports such as the attempted murder of a white female farm owner by one of her black employees after she told him to get back to work; a year-old baby having its head smashed in by robbers; and the murder of a white family’s last surviving son by black intruders who apparently screamed “where are your daughters?” before attempting to rape the mother.
The De la Rey song is “a call to arms” while “shoot the boer, shoot the farmer”, “one settler, one bullet” and “kill the boers, they are rapists” are seen as “revolutionary songs” by the ANC and the president of the republic, not calls to genocide. It’s all right for black people to carry “traditional weapons” such as knobkieries, spears, pickaxe handles, pangas and steel bars while setting fire to private property, trashing streets and assaulting people during a strike or “service delivery protests”. This is “traditional”. But heaven help us if whites went around with cavalry swords and rifles. That would be war, according to some. It’s OK for black people to go around wearing MK uniforms (even though it was disbanded and assimilated into the SANDF), singing songs which call for genocide against another ethnic group because it was done during the “struggle”. It’s not OK for whites to walk around carrying the old flag of the republic, nor is it all right to listen to the music of their choice. This is seen as racist and an incitement to violence.
Thabo Leshilo wanted “scientific proof” as to whether white farmers are being deliberately targeted. What is clear is farmers are geographically isolated and vulnerable to crime. As a consequence, they need to be protected and this should not be because they are largely white and happen to speak Afrikaans, but in the name of human decency, governmental responsibility and our need to eat!”