South African Farmers Are Trapped In A Brutal Reality – And My Family Is A Victim Of It – Sydney Morning Herald
Civil rights group AfriForum suggests there is, on average, 680 farm attacks and 94 farm murders in South Africa each year – almost two attacks a day and two murders a week over 18 years.
Critics of Peter Dutton’s latest contentious proposal – a special humanitarian intake of South African farmers – should consider this brutal reality, of which my family is just one victim.
Accurate statistics on South African farm murders are difficult to source. Broadly speaking, armed attacks on homes increased 7.3 percent last year. There were more than 22,300 incidents, according to the African-based Institute for Security Studies.
Numbers don’t tell the true story of this emotive, racially fraught and politically complex issue. The effects of these crimes are devastating for individuals, their families and their communities; and often transcend borders.
Craig, 62, had suffered a series of heart attacks and a severe stroke in the years before his murder and he hadn’t operated the farm for a decade or more. But he was still living in his rundown farmhouse when he was attacked. He had been on the land for more than 30 years – and it was all he knew.
My wife and her brother had pleaded with their father for years to move closer into town where he would be safer and could be cared for more easily. In the weeks before intruders staked out his home, Craig had finally agreed and had begun the long process of sorting through and packing decades worth of belongings.
But he never had a chance to finish. A couple of intruders who had been awaiting Craig’s return from a trip into town rushed him one spring evening and forced their way into his house.
After making him unlock a safe, from which they stole just a few firearms and a small amount of jewellery, his hands and feet were tied with electrical cables and he was bludgeoned to death with a walking stick.
This was a horrific and entirely undeserved end for a kindhearted, peaceful man who spoke the Zulu language fluently, and had previously employed and cared for dozens of African farm-workers. He had also organised lessons and schooling for them and their children.
We know there was more than one perpetrator because they left behind empty soft-drink cans – taken from Craig’s fridge – which they drank in his loungeroom, before driving off in his car. I gathered these details last September, during our rushed visit to Craig’s home in Mid Illovo – the same house in which my wife and her brother grew up.
Wandering through the still-unsecured crime scene in a jetlagged daze, the horror of what had unfolded inside contrasted with the serene garden setting outside, as did my playing games to entertain our barely-walking baby son, to stop him running into the still blood-spattered room where his mother was beginning the sombre task of clearing out his grandfather’s possessions.
Meanwhile, a few local police arrived – to pay their respects to the family more than anything else. The bulk of the investigative work in such crimes is often left to private security firms, who supplant an under-resourced police force.
The leading role of these firms became apparent as I sat with my wife and her family on a couple of occasions, listening to the harrowing details of what took place and the latest leads the agency – not the police – were investigating.
Farm attacks have been blamed on increasingly anti-white hate speech from political groups such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by ex-African National Congress (ANC) firebrand Julius Malema.
Many hoped last month’s retirement of South Africa’s scandal-ridden former president Jacob Zuma would bring some improvement, though this is uncertain given recent overtures to Malema by new President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Ramaphosa’s ANC party has also backed a parliamentary motion supporting land expropriation without compensation – the transfer of land from white to black owners.
Given little of value was taken during the attack, the motive remains in doubt. What is certain is that fear spreads through tight-knit farming communities when one of their own is attacked.
Farming in South Africa is now reportedly one of the world’s most dangerous occupations. In the last 20 years, the number of white farmers in the country has halved to just 30,000, according to AfriForum.
I acknowledge observations about the lack of compassion shown by the Australian government towards other asylum seekers. But regardless of what people think they know about South Africa and its admittedly ugly apartheid past, you can’t rank human rights abuses.
Failing to recognise the danger faced by South African farmers is an insult to the memories of those who have suffered, and who will continue to do so unless help is given and members of the international community prompt change.
By: Glenn Freeman (freelance journalist)