Farm attacks costing millions
Cape Town - Crimes against farmers are costing the agricultural industry hundreds of millions of rands and placing food security under threat, a farmer's union told Parliament on Tuesday.
Andre Botha, the chairperson of Agriculture South Africa rural safety policy committee, told the portfolio committee on police that stock theft alone had cost the union's members around R365m since 1991.
"No industry can survive with a loss of this magnitude," Botha said, adding that the total loss to crime, from the stealing of fence poles and tools was around R269m.
"If you start calculating the losses to agriculture due to crime, then it is no surprise that we are part of a struggling industry and the food security in South Africa is under threat."
Botha, whose organisation claims to represent approximately 80% of South Africa's 33 000 commercial farmers, said there had been 11 785 attacks on farms and 1 804 murders since 1991.
"This is two a week and it is increasing," he said.
"What is a worrying aspect is (the) brutality (with) which murders are conducted."
'Stop race talk'
One of the biggest challenges faced by the agriculture industry, he said, was "irresponsible remarks" by paid government officials and politicians.
"I am worried if we get senior politicians who make derogatory remarks on a certain sector of this country and we are excluded from being South African then there is a big question mark put on democracy.
"My plea is that we stop talking about white and black farmers."
Botha said hate speech and inflammatory remarks would not be tolerated on farms and that wherever this was done, the union would open a case at the local police station.
"We will do this until we have rid South Africa of this disease," he said.
Lack of funding
Ismail Motala, the head of transformation of the United South African Agricultural Association, which represents around 1800 farmers in the Western Cape, told the committee that black farmers were worse off than white farmers as they had less resources and cash to protect themselves.
"The cost of security for black farmers is high, therefore we are always at risk of being victims of crime," he said.
Motala said the loss of produce affected the farmers "dramatically".
"We are small farmers and whatever losses, it affects directly on our bottom line," he said.
"Theft of equipment, irrigation equipment, electric cables, fencing and pumps has seen some of our members' farming activities reduce dramatically and in some cases they have stopped farming.
"In some cases, where cables are stolen and borehole pumps are stripped, the cost of putting that together amounts to R70 000.
"It is impossible for our farmers to get those kind of funds to farm. So what do they do? They walk out."