Increasing attacks means farming no longer a fertile ground for Indian families
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Durban - THE FUTURE of farming in the Indian community hangs in the balance.
The increasing number of violent farm attacks has seen children of farmers opt for professional careers rather than taking over their family businesses.
The crime statistics released by Police Minister Bheki Cele recently revealed that 49 farm murders were reported to police between April last year and March this year. The Eastern Cape and Free State recorded the highest number with 12 murders each, followed by Limpopo with nine and KwaZulu-Natal with five.
Crop and cattle farmers Glen Rafferty, 63, and his wife Vida, 60, became the latest farm attack fatalities when they were shot on their farm in Normandien during a robbery on Saturday.
The couple had returned home, after going to Newcastle, when they were ambushed. Their bodies were found at the front door of their home. The couple’s dog was also shot and killed. A case of murder is being investigated.
Cele said the police were taking farm killings seriously and that they would toughen their stance.
In July, a couple living on a farm just outside Mooi River were attacked by three robbers while having dinner. The robbers wore balaclavas and fled with cash and a Bluetooth speaker.
In January, a couple were robbed and their teenage daughter raped on a farm on the North Coast.
Bala Naidoo, 69, lives on a farm in Umkomaas. He had a gun pointed at his head during a robbery. “I am the last-generation farmer. I farm vegetables which I supply to markets in Durban. My children did not want to take over the farm because it has become dangerous. They are not prepared to risk their lives and those of their children. I support them in their decision.”
Naidoo has three children who live in Johannesburg. His eldest son is in engineering, his second-eldest son is an auditor and his daughter is a lab technician.
Naidoo said farming used to be a business many people were interested in, but not any more.
“A few years ago, there was a robbery on my farm and I had a gun pointed at my head. I thought my life was over. We formed a neighbourhood watch to ensure we are safe. But, despite our efforts, criminals still come on to the farms and rob us.”
Naidoo said farmers lived in fear.
“It is scary. We read in the media about the murders and the brutal beatings of other farmowners. It leaves you scared for your own life. The police need to be deployed to areas with the most criminal activity, to ensure that those committing the crimes are caught. The court needs to give them lengthy jail sentences. This will show that this crime is not taken lightly.”
Rajen Gounder, 52, of Chatsworth, owns a farm in Camperdown.
His children, aged 24 and 27, have opted for careers in the insurance and human resources industries.
“We lived on a family farm in Mariannhill. We sold the farm eight years ago and moved to Chatsworth because of the crime. At night we had criminals come on to the farm and steal crops. They tried to break into our home several times. My children were exposed to this.”
When his children were younger they were not allowed to play outside.
“When we moved, we decided not to buy another farm but a house in a residential area. I bought my farm in Camperdown, which I go to every day. I have employed guards to protect the property. I farm vegetables which are supplied to the Durban markets and supermarkets.”
He said his children had steered clear of the business: “Farming in our family will probably end with me. The future of Indian-owned farms is bleak.”
Malcolm Govender, 35, took over his family’s farm at the old Durban Airport but has no intention of allowing his children to continue in his footsteps.
“Safety is a huge concern for me. I took over because, financially, it supported our family and I did not have another option at the time. We supply vegetables to the local markets and a few supermarkets.”
Govender also said farming had become a dangerous business.
“Our crops and equipment are being stolen. We are running into losses of thousands of rand. This is not feasible for a business.”
Soon after the release of the statistics, the SAPS joined forces with AgriSA to combat farm attacks.
Tommie Esterhuyse, the chairperson of AgriSA Centre of Excellence Rural Safety, said the aim was to increase police and farmer visibility .
Since the beginning of the year, the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TLU SA) has recorded more than 26 farm murders and 141 farm attacks. The organisation has called on farmers to arm themselves so they can defend themselves.
Henry Geldenhuys, the chairperson of the TLU SA’s Safety Committee, said they could not depend on the government to safeguard them.
“People who live on farms increasingly have to make use of their own abilities and capacity to ensure their safety. The solution lies in personal alertness and readiness. From the feedback after failed attacks, it is clear that victims who were highly alert and ready - with a weapon on hand - could effectively prevent an attack.”
He said the reaction of a well-organised farm watch, made up of members who knew the environment and residents, was invaluable when the reaction time of the police was limited.
“Safety starts with the individual farmer, then the family and workers and then this branches out to neighbours, farm watches and the police. It is crucial to be prepared by keeping a weapon for self-defence within reach.”