Security expert quashes Helen Zille’s farm attack stats

Helen Zille has been slammed over her comments on farm murders and attacks in SA. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Helen Zille has been slammed over her comments on farm murders and attacks in SA. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 4, 2020


Durban - The head of justice & violence prevention at the Institute for Security Studies, has disputed claims made by the DA’s federal council chairperson Helen Zille, regarding farm murders and farm attacks in South Africa.

In an interview with 702 this week, Zille said farmers were the most vulnerable in the country. She said because were there just 40 000 of them around the country and 58 of them had been murdered in the past financial year, this showed the group was the most vulnerable in the country, she claimed.

However, Gareth Newham of the ISS said Zille was mistaken.

"There is no factual basis for her saying this. I am not sure where she gets the figure of 40 000 farmers from," he said.

Newham said the most recent Stats SA agricultural census undertaken in 2017 and released earlier this year, states that there are 40 122 farms involved in commercial agriculture.

"This is very different to saying there are 40 000 farmers. According to the same census, there were 757 628 people employed on these farms.

“These figures provide a sense of the size of the commercial farming taking place in South Africa.

“The figures for farm attacks and murders collected by the police also count those that take place on small holdings where agricultural activity takes place.

“This is a much larger pool of places than only those involved in commercial agriculture," Newham said.

He added that the numbers of murders on farms include farmers, their families, farm managers, farm workers and people visiting farms.

"To get an accurate statistic on the likelihood of being murdered on a farm would require getting this total figure for all places where some agriculture activity takes place.

“It is generally understood by people who study this issue, that this is an almost impossible task," he said.

Newham said there was no evidence that farmers were being targeted because they are farmers or because of their race.

"What we know of the perpetrators is that they target people whom they see as vulnerable. Some farmers are elderly, live far from help and have valuables which are the main reasons that they are targeted.

“When perpetrators are identified and arrested, they are often linked to a range of other crimes not only those involving farms and not only involving white people.

“There is no evidence that the attacks on farms are motivated by race," he said.

Newham noted that South Africa has a huge problem of violence.

"This is evidenced by the 37% increase in murders and the over 40% increase in armed robberies since 2012.

“Farmers, like everyone else in the country are experiencing the impact of this. The solution is to develop clear strategies and plans to reduce murder and robberies overall.

“If public safety improves for all people in South Africa, it will also improve for farmers and those living in rural areas. Trying to protect one group of people at the expense of others will not work and is bound to fail," he said.


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