Crime affects us all. The majority of victims of violent crimes are black and poor; with young black men and women at a disproportionately greater risk of being murdered.
This was the caution issued by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his weekly letter to the nation on Monday morning.
He said the nation had “a huge task to bring to an end, murder, assault, robbery, rape and violence against women and children wherever it happens and whoever it affects.”
Ramaphosa was adamant that for this to be attained, it required that all South Africans stand together not only to condemn these criminal acts, but also to work together to end them.
“Just over a week ago, Brendin Horner, a young farm manager in the Free State, was murdered in an appalling act of cruelty. His killing should anger and upset every one of us.”
Horner was found dead on the DeRots farm on October 2. His murder was widely condemned by agricultural groups, creating outrage in Senekal in the Free State.
“No matter who we are, no matter what community we live in, no matter our race, creed or language, we should be as deeply affected by the death of Brendin Horner as we are by the many other South Africans who die violent deaths each year,” the president continued.
For decades, farmers, particularly white farmers and their lobby groups, have claimed that the police have failed to act on violent attacks in rural areas.
Anger was evident as farming communities protested at the Senekal Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where two men appeared for the brutal murder of the 22-year-old farm manager.
Ramaphosa said : “The brutal killing of a young white farmer, allegedly by black men, followed by the spectacle of white farmers storming a police station to get to a black suspect has opened up wounds that go back many generations.”
“The violent protests that took place in Senekal following the arrest of suspects in Brendin Horne’s murder show that we have not yet escaped the divisions and mistrust of our past. While anger at the senseless killing is justifiable, vigilantism is not.”
“What happened in Senekal shows just how easily the tinderbox of race hatred can be ignited. As a nation we must resist any attempts to use crime on farms to mobilise communities along racial lines.”
Ramaphosa went on to address the killings of three young men who were shot in a car in Delft in the Western Cape in the same week.
“Our thoughts are with their families at this time of grief. It is at such moments that we are called on to reach out to each other as South Africans, to show compassion, empathy and solidarity.”
“These crimes are a stark reminder of the levels of violence in our country.”
According to StatsSA, “an estimated 12 000 murders were committed in 2018/19, affecting about 0,07% of households in South Africa”.
“The SAPS handles murders that may not be known to households such as murders of homeless people, immigrants, temporary visitors and gang-related murders,”StatsSA said in their report.
Ramaphosa said: “We have a huge task to bring an end to murder, assault, robbery, rape and violence against women and children wherever it happens and whoever it affects. It requires that all peace-loving South Africans stand together not only to condemn these criminal acts, but also to work together to end them.”
Numerous studies show that crime in farming communities are largely opportunistic. Rural communities are more vulnerable because of their isolated location and, as a result, the relative lack of access to security and other services
“It requires that we hold fast to the principles contained in our Constitution, that we uphold the rule of law and that we strengthen our justice system to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book,” Ramaphosa said.
“If we are to succeed in tackling violent crime, particularly in rural communities, we must confront this trauma and challenge the racial attitudes that prevent a united response.”
“Those people who think that farm attacks affect just a small part of our population are wrong. The farming community is an integral part of our economy. The farming community produces the food that we eat. Violent crime on farms poses not just a threat to the safety of our rural communities, but to our nation’s food security.”
The statesman added that solidarity and taking a stance together, as a country was pivotal in rooting out criminality, “whether it is in Senekal or on the streets of Delft. Crime is not somebody else’s problem; it is our collective problem”.
“One murder is a murder too many. We stand in solidarity with all victims of crime, regardless of whether they live in cities or on farms, whether they are farmers or farmworkers” he said.
“We must work together to root out criminality.”
“We must remain vigilant and work with the police to keep our communities safe. We must not harbour criminals among us. In far too many instances, perpetrators are known to communities and are sheltered by them.”
In closing, he said: “We must not be blinded by our own prejudices to the suffering and pain of others. It should not matter to us if the victim of violent crime is black or white.”
“To do so would be a betrayal not just of this country’s founding principles, but of our own humanity.”