The recent spate of brutal attacks on farmers, their spouses and workers leaves one numb. Just the number of murders since 1994 would have got agriculture ministers fired in most civilised countries.
But not here. The penchant to label this as common criminality is as sick as the reductionist explanation that with the murder of every farmer, food security is endangered. As for those fat EFF members who justify farm killings as racial redress, I bet they’ll be the first to cry wolf should South Africa become food insecure.
As valid as the food security threats are, the more serious aspect of the heinous slaughter of fellow South Africans is a negation of their humanity and their right to life as any other human being, employer or producer of goods. In fact, I would hazard a guess that farmers provide more for their workers than any other employer in the country – houses, clinics, schools and work. I bet the results of such a study would surprise us.
The “culling” of commercial farmers from 70 000 in 1994 to 36 000 in 2010 is enough to worry any government. Well, not the ANC government. That is why ruling party member Mduduzi Manana can shout “bury them alive” so shamelessly, in reaction to FF+ spokesperson Pieter Groenewald’s concern about the plight of white farmers.
That comment should have got him thrown out the House and charged with hate speech. But his party’s acquiescence proves support for his heinous remarks. Farmers need reassurance, in no uncertain terms, that any crime against them will be met the full might of the law.
Groenewald went to great lengths to locate these murders within the racial context of the country and the pre-apartheid controversies around land and agriculture. But when condemnation of farm murders is preceded by a caveat about race or land dispossession, it indicates how low we have sunk. That we cannot just denounce the unspeakable murders of farming families, in their own right, is a comment on our brutalisation as a nation.
DA MP Annette Steyn hit the nail on the head when she condemned our inability to be moved by the torture and terror accompanying every horrendous attack. That’s why we cannot allow the purge of farmers to be viewed as just another levelling of the racial killing fields in a bid to get even.
As South Africans, we must guard against making the ANC government’s ideological ignorance about farmers, farming and land ownership our issue. The party has had more than 20 years to address the land question, which is not just about farming. Heck, ask ANC members who own farms.
We need go no further than look at our neighbour Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe institutionalised land grabs. He reduced the former breadbasket to Africa’s basket case. Today, the despot is begging white farmers to return to the country.
That is why Steyn’s proposal that farm murders be classified as a special crime is so important. Such a stance will enable the state to track, monitor and provide special resources to fight the scourge – in order to combat it effectively.