Pretoria – Civil rights group AfriForum on Monday said attacks on South African farmers have strong racial and political links, condemning "reckless" remarks towards the farmers often made by politicians.
"It is important that we create some context. It's not just saying whether it's black or white [farmers being killed]. I believe there is a political influence in some of these attacks. Sometimes we do hear racial utterances being said to victims of these attacks before they are murdered," said Ian Cameron, AfriForum's head of community safety.
"Obviously the survivors have shared these stories with us. We have also head of perpetrators who who commit these horrible crimes. There is a mixture of things that might add to motive. I don't think there is a simple answer."
Cameron spoke to African News Agency at the historical Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria where hundreds of protesters gathered for what has been dubbed #BlackMonday, a campaign raising alarm on the scourge of farm attacks and murders.
"I think what is very important about today is that we realise that without farmers there is no future in this country. No one will eat, and no one will be able to have a sustainable living, and have a future to build in this country," said Cameron.
"A farmer has 4.5 times more chance of being murdered in South Africa, than an average South African. That means a farmer is three times more likely to be murdered in South Africa than a police officer in this country. So farmers have by far the most dangerous job of all people in this country, at the moment. We cannot allow this to continue the way it is."
Cameron said reckless statements directed at white farmers by politicians like Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema have put farmers at risk.
"We see people like Julius Malema saying very polarising things in the media, we see Malema saying things about specific racial groups, specifically farmers, and he makes generalisations that calls for these communities to feel a sense of polarisation, and divide. It's important that politicians start taking responsibility. We see Fikile Mbalula, in a laughing matter, speaking about crime in Parliament as though it's just a figure," said Cameron.
"Farmers at the moment to the government, are just numbers. It doesn't count as a person."
Protesters at the Pretoria edition of the #BlackMonday protests urged the South African farmers to take control of their own safety.
“I come from a farming community where we do have a lot of issues with farm attacks and farm murders. It is friends and family on farms, and currently they are not safe. I am here in support of them,” Pretoria resident Dirk Willem Nel told the African News Agency (ANA).
“All the farmers need to, from their own finances and power, try and get their own families safe. We do not have a lot of support from police, and also farms are far from police stations. There isn’t always quick response from the police. The minister of police is currently not engaging in any way. So people need to come forth on their own and try and bring safety to themselves and their neighbours on the farms.”
Nel said if the current trend on farm attacks continues unabated, South Africa could experience food shortages as producing the food has become a life and death business.
“The end result in not protecting farmers is going to be food shortages, there’s not going to be maize [mealie meal] on the shelves. We will need to import if the farmers aren’t protected. Import costs are very high so it will bring shortages, and it will negatively affect the whole country.”
Nel was one of the hundreds of people gathered for a protest at the Voortrekker Monument on the outskirts of Pretoria. Wearing black and holding white crosses, the protesters laid down their small crosses near a giant cross erected in the historical park.