SAPS unwilling to bow to pressure over farm attacks

Farmers’ union TAU SA has long called for farm attacks to be declared priority crimes, a call which seems to have been ignored by the Ministry of Police and the South African Police Service.

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More recently, labour union Solidarity and civil rights organisation AfriForum added their voices to the call, but police leadership remains unmoved. AfriForum marched to the Pretoria offices of Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa on 1 December to hand over a memorandum demanding that farm attacks be declared priority crimes. This date was chosen because it was the second anniversary of the murders of farmer Attie Potgieter his wife Wilna and their three-year-old daughter Willemien at Lindley in the Free State.

Joining the march to show their support were 10 families who had lost loved ones in farm attacks, and musicians, Steve Hofmeyr, Chris Chameleon and Adam Tas. According to AfriForum’s deputy CEO, Ernst Roets, the police had earlier tried to have the march declared illegal, an application which was denied by the North Gauteng high court. “Farm murders are not only a crisis. They are a catastrophe,” said Roets. “Farmers live in unique circumstances in remote areas where the police’s reaction time is slow.

“Farmers and their families are killed in large numbers and even tortured. Despite this, government and the police refuse to acknowledge that there is a crisis, never mind formulating a focused counter strategy.” While accurate statistics of farm attacks appear to be unavailable, estimates are that this figure could range from 10 000 to over 13 000 since the advent of democracy in SA in 1994.

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In a recently released report on farm attacks and farm murders in SA, the Solidarity research institute said that the union called for these crimes to be declared a priority. Dirk Hermann, Solidarity’s deputy secretary-general said, “Government refuses to declare farm murders a priority crime because as far as government is concerned, they form part of the broader murder category.

This is unacceptable and irresponsible.” Hermann said that Solidarity’s views were echoed by Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, and by Prof Christiaan Bezuidenhout, professor of criminology at the University of Pretoria. Meanwhile, AfriForum and TAU SA have gone to the international community to highlight what has been described as the SA government’s unwillingness to address the problem of farm attacks.

In October, the organisation sent a memorandum to 110 embassies and international institutions asking them to put diplomatic pressure on the SA government to take action on farm attacks. “Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, participated in the UN’s annual conference of the Forum for Minority Affairs in Geneva, Switzerland, at the end of last month,” said, Solidarity spokesperson, Nico Strydom. “This body focuses on the implementation of the UN’s Declaration on Minority Rights. During the conference, a report on farm murders was submitted by Kriel to the UN.”