Numbers don’t lie. Numbers have no political agenda. Numbers cannot be prejudicial toward or against any group. Rather, it is what we interpret from the numbers that makes them controversial.
Currently, South African farmers experience 130 murders per 100,000 people, as opposed to the general population’s rate of 34 per 100,000, according to national statistics which were reluctantly released.
Numbers are numbers and something needs to be said of such a high murder rate in areas that lack many of the social problems which naturally come about in urban areas. One would have to be dishonest to ignore the rate at which people living in rural areas are getting attacked and killed.
In the past year, I have personally come to know some of South Africa’s farming community. One of my closest friends runs a game farm in the Eastern Cape and I have spoken to him on the issue of farm murders. Far from touting far-right conspiracy theories, he was always reasonable and gave me his thoughts on relations of farmers in rural communities, but stressed how bad the situation was.
One night when discussing the issue via instant messaging he sent me a message which really hit it home:
“… the point is that most farmers and their families in the towns and cities around the country have had enough. This is merely protest action but it could increase quite quickly into something else. It won’t now, but in the years ahead with a government who doesn’t help, for sure.”
“… a government that doesn’t help… ”
I’m not an anarchist. I believe government has certain legitimate functions and, without a doubt, I think people from the across the political spectrum can agree that protection of citizens from harm is the most important duty of any government. The farming community in South Africa has not had that. Time and time again they have had to deal with tragedy after tragedy, often in extraordinarily brutal circumstances to almost no public outrage except within their own communities.
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Moreover, this is indicative of a more noticeable disconnect between city-dwelling South Africans and farmers or any other people living in rural areas. Naturally this will occur as the two are two different communities, but it has reached a point now where farmers are appealing to the public to recognise a plight that they face.
This, while Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula refuses to release government crime statistics regarding farm murders. Currently, the only statistics available are from private organisations such as AfriForum, but Deputy CEO Ernst Roets pointed out: “We know that our data in terms of farm attacks in insufficient because we know a farm attack where no one is killed is not newsworthy anymore.”
This is also why there has been pleas to overseas governments from some farmers. This is an outcry from a community that has been ignored by its own government in providing the most basic of duties that a government has: Protection from harm.
With this being said, it is important to note that there are some – usually politically far on the right – who use these statistics for political gain or to advance a narrative.
To the dismay of the far-right and the far-left, it should be known that people can care about crime without it being based on race. Not everyone is an intersectional feminist who can link melting glaciers with gender inequality by using no logic at all (believe or not, that is not even a joke). Not everyone longs for “the good old days” of South Africa when most of its population lacked the most basic rights like free speech or freedom of movement, and the rule of law was almost nonexistent but rather beholden to the evil that was the leviathan Apartheid state.
No, there are indeed some of us such as myself who are concerned about individual rights. I implore any South Africans (or anyone abroad concerned concerned about this) not to associate the issue of farm attacks with any kind of political narrative. It helps no one and only harms the rural community which we are trying to protect. It is also false, but that is for a different article.
Since I have been living in a more rural part of South Africa, I have gained an appreciation for the farmers of this country. South Africa is truly blessed with fantastic natural resources, arable land, incredibly diverse flora and fauna, and from this, great economic potential. It’s easy to live inside the bubble of a big city and assume that chickens come from KFC and apples come from aisle 3 at Pick n Pay, but the toil and labour which got that rib-eye steak or that apple crumble has its origin in a part of the country many people never think twice about.
I support our farmers and I want our rural community as a whole to be safe. That’s why I wore black on Monday and I’ll continue to support them after Monday.