Official statistics on farm attacks are non-existent, due to what human rights groups have described as a “cover-up” by the notoriously corrupt — and potentially complicit — South African government.
Victims are often restrained, harmed with weapons such as machetes and pitchforks, burned with boiling water or hot irons, dragged behind vehicles and shot. Female victims are often raped during attacks.
According to the TAU, last year there were 345 attacks resulting in 70 deaths — the highest death toll since 2008. In 2015 there were 318 attacks resulting in 64 deaths, and the year before there were 277 attacks resulting in 67 deaths.
In total, between 1998 and the end of 2016, 1848 people have been murdered in farm attacks — 1187 farmers, 490 family members, 147 farm employees, and 24 people who happened to be visiting the farm at the time.
In a 2014 report, “The Reality of Farm Tortures in South Africa”, AfriForum wrote that “the horror experienced during farm tortures is almost incomprehensible”.
“The well-known ‘blood sisters’ from the South African company Crime scene-cleanup have rightly indicated that, in their experience, farm tortures are by far the most horrific acts of violence in South Africa,” the report said.
“They are of the opinion that the term ‘farm murders’ is misleading and that the terms ‘farm terror’ and ‘farm tortures’ are more suitable.”
Earlier this month, for example, 64-year-old Nicci Simpson was tortured with a power drill during an attack involving three men at her home on a farm in the Vaal area, about two hours drive from Johannesburg.
When paramedics arrived, they found three dead dogs, and the woman lying in a pool of blood, spokesman Russel Meiring told News24. “They used a drill to torture her,” police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini said.
Last month, British woman Sue Howarth and her husband Robert Lynn were woken at 2 am by three men breaking into a window of their remote farm in Dullstroom, a small town in the northeast of South Africa, about 240km from the nearest capital city.
The couple, who had lived in the area for 20 years, was tied up, stabbed, and tortured with a blowtorch for several hours. The masked men stuffed a plastic bag down Mrs. Howarth’s throat and attempted to strangle her husband with a bag around his neck.
The couple were bundled into their own truck, still in their pyjamas, and driven to a roadside where they were shot. Mrs. Howarth, 64, a former pharmaceutical company executive, was shot twice in the head. Mr. Lynn, 66, was shot in the neck.
Miraculously he survived and managed to flag down a passer-by early on Sunday morning. Mrs. Howarth, who police said was “unrecognisable” from her injuries, had multiple skull fractures, gunshot wounds and “horrific” burns to her breasts.
“Sue was discovered amongst some trees, lying in a ditch,” writes Jana Boshoff, a reporter for the local Middelburg Observer newspaper. “Her rescuers managed to find her by following her groans of pain and then noticing drag marks from the road into the field.
“Her head was covered with a towel. Her eyes were swollen shut. She was partially clothed with just scraps of her shirt remaining. Her breasts and upper body was bloody. The plastic bag, shoved down her throat, took some effort to remove because her jaw was clamped down tightly.
“How she managed to breathe with the bag in her throat remains a mystery. One of her rescuers later recalled how Sue was unresponsive except for the constant groaning. Whilst the man ran back to the road to see if an ambulance has not arrived yet, she managed to curl one of her arms around her breasts in a last attempt to protect herself.”
The three men responsible for killing Mrs. Howarth — Themba William Yika, Nkosinathi Yika, and Lucas Makua — were arrested soon after, and more than 150 farmers turned up to demonstrate outside court.
But any form of justice is incredibly rare, and white farmers are increasingly questioning their future. The number of white farmers in South Africa has halved in a little over two decades to just 30,000. Thousands more farms are up for sale.
“The average murder ratio per 100,000 or the population in the world is nine, I believe. In South Africa, it is 54. But for the farming community, it is 138, which is the highest for any occupation in the world.”
Since 2007, at the direction of the government, South African police have stopped releasing statistics about the race of the victims. Monitoring group Genocide Watch says the cover-up has been exacerbated by American and European governments, which have “remained silent about the problem, reinforcing the campaign of denial”.
Claudia Bryan is a South African activist living in London. Her grandmother owned a bakery in South Africa. One day six blacks entered the bakery and gang-raped her. They then tried to shoot her. The gun jammed. In anger, they gang-raped her again and the 70-something woman died. Robbery was not the motive.
It should be noted that, historically, there has been political tension between South African farmers and South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC). Portions of minority communities believe that farm tortures carry with them an element of revenge on the white population as a result of South Africa’s history of racial segregation.
Many believe that there is also a political element, as the military wing of the African National Congress historically defined farms as ‘legitimate war zones’ in which soft targets could also be attacked and killed.
Farmers are still frequently the targets of verbal political attacks by senior members of the ruling party. Furthermore, AfriForum recently filed a complaint of hate speech against the ANC for its continued use of the so-called struggle song, entitled Shoot the Boer.
Another popular struggle song entitled Kill the Boer, kill the farmer was declared to be hate speech by the South African Human Rights Commission in 2003.
(We were contacted by a person from South Africa with these (and many more) photos to get the horror of what is happening to the white farmers by blacks, out into the West. We ask that you share this article about their plight.)