Police are shown recovering firearms and ammunition stolen during a farm attack in the community of Thornhill, Eastern Cape in July. Picture: THE HERALD
Police are shown recovering firearms and ammunition stolen during a farm attack in the community of Thornhill, Eastern Cape in July. Picture: THE HERALD

THE number of farm attacks in South Africa is estimated to be 700% higher than in any other country in the world and the chances of a farmer being murdered on a farm in South Africa are anything between four to six times higher than the average murder risk rate for the general population, said Christiaan Bezuidenhout, professor of criminology at the University of Pretoria.

He was addressing a conference in Pretoria on Tuesday morning, where the Solidarity Research Institute introduced a report on farm murders and attacks. The report deals with subjects such as the nature and extent of farm attacks, levels of violence during farm attacks as well as the psychological effects on victims.

Prof Bezuidenhout said existing data on farm murders and attacks were out of date, covered different time periods and failed to give detailed breakdowns of who, within farming communities, was under attack. He said farm attack numbers were included in general murder statistics on the South African Police Service website.

Agri SA recorded 1,541 murders from 1994 to 2008 and 10,151 farm attacks during the same period. Figures from the Transvaal Agricultural Union showed 1,266 murders from 1991 to 2009.

Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said it was obvious the government no longer viewed the ongoing attacks on the farming community as a priority.

"The strategic and operational response to the threat of farm attacks and murders is clearly not based on the acknowledgment that the farming community is disproportionately targeted when compared with the victimisation risk of other citizens or groups in South Africa." The economic and other implications, such as loss of production and food security, were equally underestimated, he said.

Farmers were twice as likely to be murdered as police officers in South Africa, Mr Burger said.

Prof Bezuidenhout compared the murder rate in South Africa with that in the UK and the US. He said from April 2009 to March 2010 the murder rate in South Africa was 16,834, or about 34 murders out of every 100,000 of the population. In the recorded crime statistics for England and Wales there were 663 murders recorded in 2008-09, 618 in 2009-10 and 642 in 2010-11 — a rate of about one per 100,000 of the population, quoting from the UK government website. The US dealt with 16,465 murder victims in 2008, 15,399 in 2009 and 14,748 in 2010, or about five per 100,000.

 

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