Pretoria – Protesters at the #BlackMonday protests staged in Pretoria to raise awareness on farm murders urged 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) during the protest at Voortrekker Monument.
"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.
AfriForum deputy CEO Ernst Roets said Police Minister Fikile Mbalula is now part of the problem of farm attacks and murders which have left many South African farmers fearing for their lives.
"We do not get feedback from the minister, so we believe that the minister is part of the problem at this stage. We will continue to put pressure on government but we are not going to align our campaign in such a way that the solution will, at the end of the day, depend on the minister," he said.
"We are going to continue. We are going to look at our own safety better. We are going to continue with international awareness campaigns. We are going to continue with all of these protest gatherings but we not going to wait for the minister. Fikile Mbalula has made it quite clear that he is not prepared to do something about this."
Thousands of people took to the streets in different parts of South Africa in the protest dubbed #BlackMonday, raising international awareness on the attacks and killings of farmers in the country.
Several major roads were blockaded in Cape Town and in Pretoria.
Three people have been arrested in the go-slow in Pretoria, according to reports.
The civil rights group AfriForum has consistently criticised Mbalula for failing to release specific figures and statistics of farm attacks and murders when he tabled the 2016/17 crime statistics in Parliament last week.
“Yesterday [Tuesday] the crime statistics were released by the minister of police and we heard the horrible numbers that South Africa’s murder ratio has increased yet again. In the last year, there was 19, 016 murders in South Africa which means there was about two murders every hour – for an entire year. That really indicates that South Africa is in fact a very violent country, and suffering from extreme levels of crime, which is very concerning to us,” said Roets last week.
“What is even more concerning relating to this particular topic is the fact that once again no statistics regarding farm attacks were released yesterday. There was a question to that effect posed to the minister to which he responded by declining or refraining from providing any numbers. His answer almost created an impression that he was trying to depict farmers as being racists. He said we must remember there was a case in which a farmer shot someone thinking it was a baboon and so forth.”
Last week Mbalula said farmers should ensure they were compliant with the country’s laws and also desist from hiring undocumented foreigners.
“When they turn against you, you blame the police,” he said.