Farm murders have decreased to their lowest level in more than 20 years, a report by agricultural organisation AgriSA has found.
Despite controversial statements from organisations such as AfriForum and right-wing doomsday preppers Die Suidlanders that farm attacks and farm murders were out of control, AgriSA's figures, which are based on police statistics, its own research and media reports, show a slight increase in farm attacks.
Kobus Visser, AgriSA's Director for Rural Safety and General Affairs, said in the report that the occurrence of farm attacks was one of agriculture's biggest challenges.
Visser said, under AgriSA's rural safety strategy, violence against all people living, working and visiting farms and smallholdings make up the statistics for farm attacks.
"People who live on farms in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to armed farm attacks, where response times are lengthy because of the remoteness of farms," he said.
"This offers the attackers an opportunity to linger on the premises for longer, with a greater chance of the victim being subjected to a high degree of violence and brutality, compared to crimes in urban areas where the police, security companies and neighbours arrive sooner to render assistance."
AgriSA has warned that it was essential to have accurate statistics around farm attacks and farm murders to avoid making unfounded claims and stirring up emotions in the process.
The increase in attacks comes nowhere near the record high seen in 2001/2002, when 1 069 farm attacks were recorded. Farm attacks increased from 478 in 2016/2017 to 561 in 2017/2018.
According to AgriSA's statistics, farm murders decreased from 66 recorded incidents in 2016/2017 to 47 in 2017/2018. This was less than a third of the record highs recorded in the late 1990s, when 153 murders were recorded in 1997/1998.
Visser said, despite this, "the continued attacks on the farming community remain cause for concern".
"The agricultural community alone cannot be held responsible for combatting crime. It remains the government’s responsibility to keep all citizens safe; however, the threat to rural safety is of such a nature that the farming community must continue to ensure their own security," Visser said.
He added that, over the past 19 years, AgriSA and the police had recorded a total of 12 567 farm attacks and 1 733 murders.
"[That is] an average of 661 attacks and 91 murders a year," he said.
"The figures provides a clear picture of the magnitude of farm attacks and the threat to farm safety that the community experiences daily."
Visser said, according to the statistics, the North West recorded the most farm attacks with 722, followed by Gauteng with 644.
"Most murders occurred in Gauteng, namely 69, while KwaZulu-Natal and North West each recorded 61 murders. In the analysis of Gauteng's statistics, it is important to take into account that most farm attacks occur on smallholdings."
News24 reported earlier this month that Police Minister Bheki Cele released statistics on farm attacks and farm murders. AgriSA's report appears to support these statistics.
In a written response to a parliamentary question from the Freedom Front Plus' Pieter Groenewald, Cele and national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole provided a breakdown of farm attack statistics dating back to the 2012/13 financial year.
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