SA Genocide Watch

SA Farm Attacks and Farm Murders Remain Concern

Johan Burger,  Senior researcher, Crime and Justice Programme, ISS Pretoria, South Africa

The ongoing scourge of criminal attacks on the farming community in South Africa and the accompanying range of violent crimes such as murder, rape and robbery remain a controversial issue. On the one hand there are those who argue that farmers are more at risk of being targeted by violent criminals than the average citizen.

This includes those who represent organised agriculture. Some go as far as claiming that there is a political motive behind these attacks, with the objective of forcing white farmers off the land. Indeed, people like Dr Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch go even further and claim that the nature and extent of farm murders show worrying signs of genocide. On the other hand, there are those who argue that the criminal victimisation of farmers is no different than that faced by South Africans in general.

The absence of proper statistics contributes to the confusion and lack of clarity on the issue. For example, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), using statistics inter alia from the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TAUSA), concluded in a press statement on 5 October 2012 that farmers were not uniquely vulnerable to armed attacks when compared to the general population.

However, a week later on 11 October, the SAIRR announced that on the basis of new information received it was prepared to concede that farmers (exclusive of their families and workers) were ‘twice as likely’ to be murdered in South Africa than ordinary citizens.

Back in 1997 the South African Government used to believe that farmers were ‘uniquely’ targeted for violent and murderous attacks. Given that farms play a crucial role in ensuring the country’s food security, in 1997 the Minister of Safety and Security, Sydney Mufamadi, called for a joint task team comprising members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and organised agriculture to develop a plan to improve security on farms. This resulted in what became known as the Rural Protection Plan (RPP) in the same year. In 1999 a Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (JOINTS) Priority Committee on Rural Safety chaired by a senior police officer with the rank of Major General was established to ensure that rural safety was managed as a national security priority. The seriousness of the situation caused the SAPS to include figures for farm attacks and murders in its annual reports from 2001/02 to 2006/07.

In 2001 the Minister of Police directed the SAPS National Commissioner to establish a Committee of Inquiry into farm attacks. In 2003 the Committee published its findings that, among others, 89,3% of the attacks against farms were primarily criminal in nature for the purposes of robbery, with no evidence being found to support allegations that there were political motives behind these crimes.

Then President Thabo Mbeki

Then President Thabo Mbeki, without any consultation or prior warning, announced the closing down of the ‘commandos’, the cornerstone of the RPP. He stated that the SAPS would replace the commandos with an alternative system consisting of police reservists, crime combating units and sector policing.

The SAPS in its annual reports after 2006/07 stopped reporting on farm attacks and murders and a new Rural Safety Strategy (RSS) was adopted in 2011. The RSS is not focused on the security of farms, but is aimed at rural security in general. In essence this means that the government no longer regards farm security as a priority.

Was the government right to stop prioritising farm security? According to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry, there were 6 122 farm attacks in the decade between 1991 and 2001, resulting in 1 254 murders. The murder rate during farm attacks more than doubled from 66 cases in 1991 to 142 in 1998, and thereafter remained virtually unchanged until 2001. In 2001 the ratio of murders to attacks was approximately one murder for every seven attacks.

According to the SAPS’ annual reports for the period between 2001/02 and 2006/07, attacks declined by 40% from 1 069 in 2001/02 to 636 in 2005/06. However, in 2006/07, the last year that the SAPS published this information, the number of farm attacks increased by almost 25% to 794 cases, resulting in 86 murders.

Since then the only available database on farm attacks and murders is kept by TAUSA, although it does not have the capacity or capability to monitor the situation as extensively as the SAPS had done. This is because TAUSA is not informed of attacks on smallholdings, where up to 40% of attacks classified as ‘farm attacks’ occur. So, for example, in 2007 TAUSA recorded 94 attacks and 60 murders, while the SAPS recorded 794 attacks and 86 murders across the country.

However commendable its efforts, the inability of TAUSA to capture the full extent of attacks on farms and smallholdings means that it is probably under-reporting on a situation that is worse than its figures suggest. According to TAUSA’s figures for the period 2008 to September 2012, there were 634 farm attacks resulting in 306 murders.

This amounts to an average of one murder during every second attack. This compares badly to urban residential robberies where there is one murder in every two hundred attacks, on average.

According to TAUSA, most of the murder victims are the farmers themselves, followed by their spouses and other direct family, their workers and, in a few cases, visitors to farms. For example, of the 37 murders for the first nine months of 2012, 25 were farmers, 8 were spouses or other direct family, 3 were workers and 1 was a visitor.

The seriousness of farm murders becomes particularly apparent when one compares the murder rate of farmers to that of all South Africans. According to Statistics South Africa’s Census of Commercial Agriculture, there were 32 375 commercial farmers (i.e. people running farming operations either full-time or part-time) in South Africa in 2007, but this number is dropping. According to Pieter Mulder, the deputy minister for agriculture, the number of commercial farmers has declined by more than 50% since 1996. ABSA’s head of agribusiness, Ernst Janovsky, predicts that commercial farmer numbers will decline to 15 000 individuals over the next fifteen years, causing significant job losses in rural areas.

Using the latest available figures from 2007, the murder of 32 farmers (exclusive of their families and workers) in 2011 provides a murder ratio of 98,8 killings per 100 000. This is over three times higher than South Africa’s national average of 30,9 murders per 100 000 in that year and 14 times the global average of 6,9 murders per 100 000.

South African farmers are almost twice as likely to be murdered as police officials, where a ratio of 51 murders per 100 000 was recorded during 2011/12. This was enough of a concern for the Minister of Police to host a national summit on police killings in July 2011, which resulted in a ‘Ten Point Implementation Plan’ to address this problem.

So why are the murders of farmers not being prioritised by the government? There is already a crisis in commercial agriculture and these attacks are making it worse. If this situation continues it will have a very negative impact on the rural economy and South Africa’s food security. It is crucially important for government to prioritise the security of our farming community and to resume the monitoring and reporting of these attacks and murders. We will all be worse off if the government continues to ignore this pressing problem.


12 thoughts on “SA Farm Attacks and Farm Murders Remain Concern

  1. Remain a concern ? this should be top priority


    Posted by D jones | October 25, 2017, 11:21 pm
  2. This is brutality in its greatest form.Being treated unfair is one thing, but to murder,torture and rape (especially old helpless people) is inhuman and barbaric.You cannot weigh these 2 against each other. White people didn’t rape, torture and murder your parents and grandparents in their sleep. If there is anything human in people thinking that this was bred because of apartheid, answer my questions – Is this fair? What if we as white people should start doing the same to your elderly people? But then, I was part of the apartheid, but that didn’t make me want to hurt anyone, and even today, if I should see someone being treated hurtfully, I would stand up if it was the right thing to do, not only for my people, but yours too.That is what a human being will do, if not you are a monster with no heart.


    Posted by whatever | July 23, 2014, 2:57 am
    • Dear “Whatever”, They say you cannot change people who do not want to change. The ones that kill us white people is because they want to and there is no humane reason for it. No matter what you do or say they will still carry on. We will be exterminated at this rate, the question is do we want to be exterminated ? “Whatever” you are doing the right thing by standing up and saying your say that is all good people can do right now, thank you for you comments.


      Posted by WHISNews21 | July 23, 2014, 4:14 am
  3. Do you argue then that apartheid did no harm to black africans, that this was a fabrication by the liberal media?? I believe any infringement on a persons human rights is wrong regardless of colour and the attacks on farmers needs to be brought to the attention of the world, it is a shame that the past crime of apartheid effects many peoples out look on what is occurring but claiming apartheid did not treat blacks wrongly is surely not helping your cause.


    Posted by Ryan | February 6, 2013, 4:29 pm
    • Ryan Apartheid was Apartheid and what is happening now is Genocide and Genocide is Genocide. Apartheid did not lead to genocide, it led to the South Africa of Today, what will Genocide lead too ? If you or any sane person believes that the sins of apartheid come any where close to the horrific acts of genocide now being implemented here is justice on the white population, you are very wrong. However you are welcome to think whatever you want as whatever you say or believe or may want to argue about, it will not matter as another white woman, man or child will be murdered or raped and tortured to death tonight or tomorrow. There is nothing you can do about it as it will happen, that I am 100% sure of.


      Posted by WHISNews21 | February 6, 2013, 4:56 pm
  4. I am a young South African Artist and I want to speak out about this issue. In 2011 my family was attacked on a farm in Mtubatuba, KZN and its an issue that is not being addressed. If there are any images that I could use in my art from farm attacks, it would be much appreciated.


    Posted by vivien | January 4, 2013, 8:32 am
    • Hi Vivien, if you want to tell your story here on WHISNews21 you are most welcome, the world needs to know how we are being killed off one by one each day. I will help you with it if you send it to


      Posted by WHISNews21 | January 4, 2013, 9:41 am
      • Why are farmers targeted in South Africa?


        Posted by Tony | January 11, 2013, 9:37 pm
      • It is a question I would also like to know Tony, I can only assume that it is a genocide plan to rid South Africa of white people. That sounds very dramatic but can you tell me why the whites are being murdered ? Just please dont say that they deserve to die, as that is what the mighty worldwide propaganda machine has imprinted into the minds of good people worldwide. Thank you for your question I am sorry that I cannot answer it for you properly and in more detail but maybe someone else will. Hope you have a safe and happy new year and that you dont live in a place where you need to stay awake at night in fear of being murdered in your own bed, while your wife could be raped next to your dead body and your children are tortured, raped or beaten to death in their rooms in your own home. Life is worth very little in South Africa today. Just pray that it does not happen is your country.


        Posted by WHISNews21 | January 12, 2013, 1:00 am
      • This is a difficult question to answer but is anyone amongst the white community in South Africa addressing the continued underlying problems? I recall that blacks in that country for a hundred years or more were treated like toilet paper or worse. Are the people with the financial ways and means stepping up and doing anything about education or country building and healing within the people black and white? Criminals come in all colors and shapes and sizes however if a large part of the population is un-educated poor they will prey on the people who have things. Its really a shame what people have done to the country of South Africa and the culture that has been bred because of HATE.


        Posted by Tony | January 12, 2013, 3:28 pm
      • Tony I do not blame you or hold your view about the Apartheid system against you as you have been the target of the mighty propaganda machine and they have made you to believe that the whites in South Africa have treated the blacks as bad as you have described. In South Africa today there are almost more Black Millionaires than white people. The current government has had almost 20 years to fix the situation here but have done nothing but line their pockets with gold and still let the majority of blacks live in poverty. Today there are more whites living in poverty percentage wise than blacks. However the black nation always blames the whites for everything even though we are not even in power anymore and have no say in our future. I for instance cannot even get a job and have to do all kinds of odd jobs, like this one to try and make a living. The culture of hate that you are talking about was not created by the whites it has always existed. Today I see that what has happened here in South Africa is already in full motion in America, so soon if you are living in America you will feel the same as we do, If you are white you will become the minority and the crime rate will increase and if you have a little bit of money you have worked hard to earn you will be seen as the privileged, life is not fair. If you are black your future is also bleak as nothing is about color really, the powers that be want to control us all. The biggest enemy we all have, black, white, colored or yellow, is the the mind set of the people who run the world. If they want you to believe the sky is falling and it is Romney’s fault, you will believe it very soon. One of the biggest lies I have ever read about in my lifetime about the Apartheid South Africa is the picture that the liberal press worldwide published years ago, showing black people lying dead in the parks in Johannesburg while white people just causally walked by. This upset so many people worldwide, but the truth was that the blacks were not dead they were just sleeping on the grass, not being chased away or bothered by white people. You cannot believe blindly in what you read , as you have the right to not believe me either, but we live with this and we know the truth. Hope your day is safe and thank you for your comment I can hear that you are not arguing with me you just want to understand and I appreciate your concern. I am also not really qualified to give you a better answer, I hope what I said helps you. I am not a brain specialist I am just a regular Joe.


        Posted by WHISNews21 | January 12, 2013, 4:03 pm
    • just live SA for good and let those barbarians kill each other. they were cying about the rasicm… now that it’s long over… they try to commit genocide against white people. just show that those criminals are not better than the “racists” they had in power 60 years ago


      Posted by James | December 13, 2018, 9:35 am

On behalf of the Independent Artists Worldwide we thank you for taking time out to comment on this article, we all appreciate it very much

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