KZN farmers’ high risk

2014-03-10 00:00

FARMERS in KwaZulu-Natal are more likely to be victims of farm attacks than in any other part of the country.

Agricultural unions and farm security officials say there have been more attacks on farmers in KwaZulu-Natal than in any other part of the country.

Last year, there were at least nine farm murders and in the first three months of this year, there have at least been four farm murders.

In the latest attack, last weekend in Richmond, 77-year-old Eckhardt Schutte, his 66-year -old wife, Elizabeth, and their 33-year old son Lutz were stabbed to death and the house was ransacked. Four men were arrested and have appeared in court in connection with the attack.

Koos Marais of the security desk KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union said there had been 287 farm attacks in the past five years, with 37 fatalities. This is inclusive of attacks and murders of all people on a farm, including employees.

Marais said, “Farmers are concerned and will take every step possible to protect themselves, family, employees and property”.

He disputed the allegations that attacks were racially motivated: “Our finding has been predominately self-enrichment — in other words robbery — to gain goods for own use or to be sold and in many cases the want of firearms. There is no … evidence of other motives”.

This was echoed by Dr Theo de Jager, the president of the agricultural union Agri SA, who said they had been experiencing more problems with farm attacks in KwaZulu-Natal than in any other province, and that the attacks were motivated by crime.

He said, “We have invested a lot in the research and we have found no evidence to the claims that the violence is racially motivated …

“We found that black farmers and farm workers are just as vulnerable; they are soft targets. This is just criminality; the farmers are far away from each other and far from the police stations.”

Dr Mandla Buthelezi, a beef farmer and the president of the National African Farmers’ Union, said more needed to be done to curb farm attacks. “To lose one farmer is tragic … This should not be looked at according to race but as a criminality.”

De Jager said farm attacks were not the only headache for farmers; he described the recent announcement that the land claims process would be re­opened as another “disaster” for farmers.

“To this day, there are 13 000 commercial farm lands around the country that have been gazetted and so far there has been no progress. The farmers cannot continue with development, the banks are reluctant to loan money as they are not sure whether they will get their money back …”

He said in some cases, some farmers who have been bought out were still waiting for full payment. The process is that when the government buys the farm, they will pay 50% to the lawyer to close the bond and do the transfers and then 50% after that has been done, but some farmers are still waiting.

He said the process takes so long that even when the transaction is finally complete, the beneficiary ended up in a worse position.

“The department has said itself that they expect close to 400 000 claims when this process is started … In South Africa there are 37 000 commercial farmers, this means each farm will be claimed several times.”

Attempts to get comment from the Department of Land Reform were unsuccessful.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu said during his address opening the legislature on Thursday that his government was committed to addressing issues affecting farmers.

Afriforum had earlier called on farmers to mobilise and prepare themselves for land grabs, saying the government had forsaken them.

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