Grim legacy

My heart aches for every person in South Africa who has lost a child, a spouse or a loved one to farm violence.

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My heart aches for every person in this country of ours who is bereft of the opportunity to live on a farm or to continue living on a farm. Ouboet, you know how often you and I have spoken about the possibility of me staying in Oupa and Ouma’s little house on Hakbospan. But the criminals have made it impossible.

You know that there’s been a renewed spate of farm attacks and murders in the Free State. Innocent people have lost their lives to cruel, sadistic creatures. I hesitate to use the term ‘human beings’ because some of these attackers’ actions disqualify them as humans. The sad thing is that even if they are caught and brought to book, the pain of the victims continues.

Many, many farmers’ wives have had to leave their homes because their husbands fell prey to farm murderers. Their safe haven, their world, their sense of belonging has been shattered into a thousand pieces by criminals. Listening to a radio interview with a farmer’s wife from Reitz who lost her husband in a recent farm attack and hearing the raw emotion in her voice, I was again shaken by the severity of the situation.

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I detest it when opportunistic people use these acts of violence for political gain. But, on the other hand, it’s no use downplaying the psychological impact of rural criminality either. It takes something out of anybody who has to arm themselves before they leave for church on a Sunday morning, because they might be ambushed on their return.

It also puts severe strain on people to be virtually cloistered in their homes after dark because it’s simply too dangerous to go out once the sun has set.

I’ve lost family members to farm murderers and so have the majority of my friends. Your sisters and I are constantly worrying about you and yours on the farm, my dear Boet. In the back of our minds we fear the day when you might become one of the statistics. May God protect us all against that.

How I wish I could have taken SA’s new political leaders to each and every person who have suffered through farm violence. I want them to see the impact of these hateful actions – on parents who lost a child, on children who lost a parent or both parents and friends and family who lost loved ones.

I look forward to the day we can once again live peaceful lives on the farm, without fear, hatred and violence. Let me tell you something about these days of terror – they too will pass. And the day will surely come when we can raise a glass to peace and prosperity on each and every farm in South Africa.

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Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.