‘Not all crimes on farms are farm attacks’

Free State Agriculture (FSA) has argued that a distinction should be made between criminal incidents on farms and farm attacks.

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This followed a difference in opinion about the definition of farm attacks after four incidents of farm crime were recently reported in the Free State over a 72-hour period. One person was murdered in Ficksburg, two farm workers were accosted by robbers in Clocolan, one person was attacked in Wesselsbron, and there was an attempted farm attack in Virginia. FSA and the SAPS have defined a farm attack as an incident where somebody forcibly enters the farm or farm dwellings with the intention of murdering.

“Our research has shown robbery and theft to be the main reason behind farm attacks,” said FSA Safety Committee chairperson Kobus Breytenbach. “Claims of genocide, often reported in the media, are unfounded, according to our research. Perceptions that the Free State farming community is being targeted by criminals are wrong,” he said. It was imperative that farmers took responsibility for the safety and security of their homes and businesses, stressed Breytenbach.

“FSA’s Safety and Security Plan has been in place for eight years and numerous farm attacks have been foiled,” he said. “We can, however, expect increased criminal activity because of the worsening socio-economic conditions. It is therefore vitally important that effective measures be put in place on every farm. Everybody involved in farming is welcome to become part of the FSA Safety and Security Plan.”

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But TAU SA assistant manager Chris van Zyl said that any crime aimed at a farmer, his family, his workers and even visitors should be classified as a farm attack. These attacks, as defined in 2003 on request of then President Thabo Mbeki, included murder, rape, robbery, gross bodily harm and any other damage or intention to harm or intimidate.

“I believe that crimes such as stock theft and arson should be included in the definition,” he said. “A farmer can be murdered financially through losses incurred by stock theft, veld fires and even illegal hunting. Trespassing should be included as well. There is no other occupation so exposed to violent crime than farming, not even the police,” he said.