Farm attacks: Vile criminals preying on easy targets?

Farm attacks: Vile criminals preying on easy targets?

South Africans are being killed across all parts of this beautiful country - on farms, in townships, in cities and in the suburbs. 

Crime scene, police tape

It begs the question, do criminals differentiate between race, class or the employment of their victims, or is it that they have nothing but pure evil intent?


The farming community is currently in mourning after the death of a Stellenbosch farmer. 


Wine farmer Joubert Conradie (47) was shot on his farm on Tuesday. He later died in hospital after succumbing to his injuries. 


In a statement, police say: "The victim reacted to a noise in his residence when he was attacked and shot by unknown suspects, who fled empty handed."


DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard says in Facebook post that Conradie died during emergency surgery.


His death is a tragedy and can be added to a list of senseless murders committed in South Africa every day. 


I feel for his family and the families of all those who have been killed at the hands of brutal murderers.


However, it's important to consider all the factors which contribute to crime.


Police have repeatedly explained that farmers are often targeted due to their homes being secluded - making them an easy target.


Statistically speaking


Available statistics for attacks and murders on farms are a guestimate at best.


Calculating the farm murder rate is virtually impossible as things stand. 


One of the reasons it would be challenging to calculate an accurate rate is due to the fact that police do not have crime categories like farm murders or farm attacks.


Africa Check put it into perspective perfectly after a recent parliamentary debate during which two different rates for the number of people killed on farms in South Africa were mentioned. 


The Freedom Front Plus' Petrus Groenewald told MPs that the farm murder rate is 133 per 100 000.


While the African Christian Democratic Party's Steve Swart cited a lower figure.


"Whilst we have an unacceptably high murder rate in this nation of 34 people per 100,000, for farmers, the figure is 97 per 100,000. Almost 3 times the average," he said.


Rate 'indication' rather than scientific


Both Groenewald and Swart told Africa Check that Johan Burger, a senior research consultant in the governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, was the source of their claims.


Africa Check asked Burger how he calculated the figures.


"This was never meant to be a scientifically accurate fact, only an estimate to show how serious the situation is," Burger said. "The size of the numbers involved also makes this type of calculation at best an indication rather than a scientifically acceptable ratio."


This sentiment was echoed by Gareth Newham, head of the crime and justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies.


"I do not really know how one could get an accurate estimate of the murder and attack rate on farms given the complexities involved," Newham told Africa Check.


Farm murders may be underestimated


In order to calculate a farm murder rate you need two numbers: the number of people who were murdered in farm attacks and the number of people who work on, live on or visit farms and smallholdings.


Victims of farm murders are not always farmers. The police's definition of what counts as a farm murder is very broad and includes people "residing on, working on or visiting farms and smallholdings".


The South African police reported that 49 people were murdered in farm attacks in 2015/16. (Note: We are using 2015/16 data, as statistics for 2016/17 is only available for the first nine months of the reporting year. During that time, 46 people were murdered on farms or smallholdings.)


The police's head of corporate communication and liaison, major-general Sally de Beer told Africa Check that a breakdown of the status of the victims - whether they are farmers, workers, family members or visitors - was not available, as it is not analysed by the police.


Farm murders may be undercounted


A further complication is that farm murder statistics may be inaccurate.


"It is likely that many of the figures for farm attacks and murders on farms collected by organised agriculture, or the police for that matter, would not contain all the attacks or murders of non-farmers," Newham told Africa Check.


Part of the reason is that the South African Police Service has no crime category called "farm attack" or "farm murder", De Beer told Africa Check.


"The statistics, therefore, cannot be generated from the crime administration system. Head office depends on the police stations to report incidents meeting the definition for inclusion in a separate, stand-alone database."


Because of this, the police's "database is not primarily intended as a source of statistics, but as an operational tool," De Beer said. It is also a "live system", which means that the statistics may change when new information becomes available.


SA's farm murder rate remains unknown 


While questions remain about the accuracy of farm murder statistics and an accurate estimate of the affected population is unavailable, any farm murder rate should be viewed with caution.


"We have no idea how many people there are in total on farms and therefore we cannot calculate a ratio for farm murders in general," said Burger.


Black Monday


South Africans are being encouraged to wear black on Monday to sympathise with the plight of farmers. 


A row of bakkies can be seen parked outside the Uitkyk farm near Stellenbosch in protest of one of the most recent murders on a farm in the Western Cape. 


A mass protest under the banner, #SupportOurFarmers, has been planned for Monday. 



Crime needs urgent action


What is clear is that more needs to be done to fight crime in this country. 


The latest crime statistics were released on Tuesday and paint a grim picture.


It shows a marginal rise in the country's murder rate from 34.1 to 34.2 per 100 000 people.


In 2016/17, 19 016 murders were recorded - this means 52.1 people were murdered in South Africa every day over this period. 


The number of murders is up from 18 673 murders in 2015/16.



Sections of this article appeared on, a non-partisan organisation which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media. 


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View the original piece on their website.

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