Two women in agriculture to Ramaphosa: Why saying nothing about farm murders makes the problem worse

2019-06-10 12:52
A farmer holds soil in his hands. (iStock)

A farmer holds soil in his hands. (iStock)

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In the current socio-economic climate and the extent to which our country is divided, killing a farmer is not just another murder. And no, all farm murders are not based on racial hatred, write Mihlali Xhala and Jolanda Andrag.

Dear President Ramaphosa

We write as great supporters of your vision for the country. Amid growing frustration with your abilities, we remain guilty of Ramaphoria. As young people, we believe in your long game. That your patient and consulting leadership style will deliver.

We come from radically different backgrounds. One of a privileged farming community in the Western Cape. The other from the rural and much poorer Eastern Cape. Yet we dream about a future where our children will grow up in a safe and harmonious society; a South Africa of endless possibilities.

However, Mr President, you are making it increasingly difficult for us to believe in this dream; more challenging to defend you. And even more difficult to convince our learned and skilled friends that there is a future for young people in this country, that the grass is not greener overseas.

Mr President, farmers' lives are not more important than other citizens. All life is equally important. Furthermore, no crime is more important than another. Daily, people die in informal settlements in horrible circumstances. In pit toilets. Children raped or murdered in rural South Africa hardly ever make the headlines.

We therefore understand your spokesperson's view that you are not going to speak out against specific types of murders. Until now, this was also our defence. But in the current socio-economic climate and the extent to which our country is divided, killing a farmer is not just another murder. And no, all farm murders are not based on racial hatred, just like all farm murders cannot be attributed to poverty and inequality alone. However, the role of race is inseparable from the greater narrative around farm violence. A denial of this will not only disregard the demographic composition of rural communities, but also the impact of our history on wealth distribution.

The inevitable race-based interpretations that flow from farm violence make it an important matter as it creates the narrative from which racist and divisive statements and actions flow. A national response is not necessary because farmers are more important than other citizens, but because the lack thereof creates a vacuum which is the breeding ground of divisive rhetoric:  

"They killed another one of us."

"They hate us and want to systematically kill us."

"Another thief who stole the land is dead."

"One less white man, one less monster."

"They have a 1 to 5 majority over us, therefore we need to protect ourselves."

Your silence ignites a divisive debate between far-left and far-right groupings. This tempts the middle ground into choosing side. It plots us against each other and erodes our ability to work together. You are exacerbating existing uncertainty in the agricultural sector.

Mr President, prove people wrong and strengthen our hands. Not only to improve rural safety, but to stimulate much needed economic activity in rural areas. A holistic job creation solution is needed, supported with a substantial budget for rural safety. We hear that your party plans to halve unemployment in five years. Organised agriculture has a lot of successful development programmes, so do not go and reinvent the wheel. Also, we do not have the luxury of giving up more time to commissions and panels. Documents and promises don't create work. Businesses create jobs. Farmers create jobs.

- Mihlali Xhala and Jolanda Andrag are young people currently employed by Agri SA.

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Read more on:    farm murders  |  agriculture  |  farmers
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