The rising tide of farm murders in South Africa has not only sparked domestic outrage, but has also garnered international attention, and in the days leading up to the BRICS Summit hosted in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s replies in Parliament concerning the issue of farm murders, have raised concerns about their potential impact on investor confidence.
Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) are convening to discuss economic co-operation, thus Ramaphosa's approach to addressing the concerns around the threat to South Africa’s food supply, will play a crucial role in shaping perceptions of the country’s commitment to security, stability and economic growth.
Farm murders, characterised by violence directed at rural farmers, have been a long-standing issue in South Africa, and are a symptom of an ethnocratic regime out of touch with reality and at complete odds with a functioning democracy.
These crimes not only threaten the livelihoods of agricultural communities, but also have broader implications, including on domestic and foreign-investor confidence.
Ramaphosa's responses to questions have drawn criticism for their perceived lack of urgency and specificity from critics, who argue that the government’s response to this issue has been inadequate, failing to address the concerns of farmers and investors who are seeking reassurances about the safety of their lives and assets in South Africa.
The president’s language during these exchanges has been characterised by some as being "pathetic” and conveying a sense of detachment from the gravity of the issue at hand. While he acknowledged the seriousness of farm murders, his words lacked unequivocal commitment to action.
Investor confidence is a critical factor for any country's economic growth and development, as is a stable and thriving agricultural sector.
Investment in this sector is essential to achieving and improving food security and South Africa, with its abundant and diverse resources, has the potential to be an attractive proposition.
However, investors scrutinise a country's approach to security and crime prevention when making the decision to put in their money. The perception that the government is not fully addressing concerns about farm murders may lead investors to question the overall stability and security of the investment environment here.
Domestically, Ramaphosa’s replies have also caused frustration among farming communities and their supporters. The perceived lack of urgency in addressing farm murders can further deepen divisions between rural and urban populations, potentially eroding trust in the government’s ability to protect citizens' safety.
“What did he do when the apartheid regime was slaughtering our people?”— Lord Bebo (@MyLordBebo) August 9, 2023
— Cyril Ramaphosa
-> Situation is not calming down … pic.twitter.com/I6arEugBSP
Neil De Beer, President of UIM, said, “One can only be shocked to the core and be stunned by the reaction of this President on the matter of the horrific murders and torture of South z African farmers. It goes without saying that this man, whom no doubt in the time of CODESA and birth of a new democracy, showed hope as a future leader, but today without doubt he has become a coward of truth and a backbone less shadow. The murders are fact and food security now more in dark desperate reality of collapse, all under Cyril’s governance.”
I reached out to Dr Christo van der Rheede, CEO Agri SA. Herewith his reply:
Systemic breakdown of law and order diminishes investment
Armed murders and all other murders, wherever they take place, are a symptom of a deeply troubled society. Our government - president and Cabinet ministers - must take full responsibility for this.
The capacity and responsibility of all institutions that are constitutionally responsible for maintaining law and order have also been systematically eroded over time.
The high turnover of national police commissioners, the infiltration of the police force by criminals, replacement of skilled police officers by others lacking skills and experience due to employment equity targets, protection of high-profile criminals by high-ranking officials, etc, are all factors that have contributed to the breakdown of discipline, accountability and efficiency of the police force and all other role-players whose responsibility it is to protect our society – especially the roots of our food chain.
The economy is stagnating, jobs are not being created to absorb the thousands of school leavers and many others, and poorly managed municipalities, as well as other state institutions such as state-owned enterprises, lack the ability to create conducive circumstances that will attract entrepreneurs to invest in businesses locally. These are all factors that undermine economic growth.
Many people turn to crime to survive. Our justice and correctional system struggles to cope and their capability to operate effectively and efficiently, has also been dented due to the same factors affecting the police force and our military.
Abandoning the idea of meritocracy and opting for ethnocracy is at the root of our problems.
Where meritocracy reigns in a society, individuals are appointed on their abilities and achievements, rather than ethnicity. It is pivotal in maintaining a free and prosperous society, and here’s why.
Meritocracy promotes equality of opportunity. In a true meritocracy, everyone has the chance to succeed based on their own merit, regardless of background. This allows for a levelling of the playing field, granting each person the right to rise according to their abilities and efforts. A society that champions meritocracy encourages individuals to strive for their best, fostering a culture of hard work, resilience and ambition.
Secondly, meritocracy fuels innovation and economic growth. When individuals are rewarded based on their talent and efforts, they are incentivised to innovate, create, and perform at their best. This, in turn, stimulates economic growth and prosperity.
Ethnocracy on the other hand, achieves the opposite.
We’ve witnessed the devastating impact apartheid had on society when it was introduced and how it not only fuelled racial hatred, but also abused state power and resources to advance the interest of only one section of society.
Today, our democratic dispensation is again undermined by a similar approach, where state power and state resources are not effectively and efficiently used to advance the nation-state ideal of non-racialism through economic growth, instead they are strategically manipulated to maintain political power and the status quo of the incumbent rulers.
Farm murders have been politicised to the extent that they have led to even greater racial polarisation. And if we continue along the path of ethnocracy, as opposed to meritocracy, then murder, crime, corruption, poor service delivery, racism and many other social ills, will continue to plague our society.
Our politicians, especially our president, swore an oath to devote themselves to the well-being of the Republic and all its people, so President Ramaphosa, it’s over to you – do we all eat, or will this country starve because our farming sector was killed off?
Adri Senekal de Wet is the executive editor of Business Report.