We must not use farm attacks to mobilise communities along racial lines - Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa says murdered farm manager Brendin Horner's death should "anger and upset every one of us".
  • He says the violent protest in Senekal last week shows just how easily the tinderbox of race hatred can be ignited.
  • Ramaphosa says that, while crime affects everyone, the majority of victims of violent crime are black and poor. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africans must resist any attempts to use crime on farms to mobilise communities along racial lines.

In his weekly newsletter on Monday, Ramaphosa addressed the high level of violent crime in South Africa, focussing mainly on rural crime following the brutal murder of 21-year-old farm manager Brendin Horner on 2 October.

Horner's body was found in an open field near Paul Roux in the Free State. He had been tied to a pole with a rope around his neck.

An estimated 100 protesters clashed with police outside the Senekal Magistrate's Court on Tuesday morning, where two men appeared in connection with the murder.

The protesters, who were believed to be mostly farmers, left a nearby gathering of about 1 500 people held in honour of Horner, and demanded the accused be handed over to them.

During their altercation with police, two gunshots were fired, court property was damaged and a police vehicle overturned and set alight.

Ramaphosa said Horner's death should "anger and upset every one of us".

"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," Ramaphosa said.

READ | Cyril Ramaphosa | Brendin Horner murder: Whether you are black or white, crime is a collective problem

"Just as we mourn the loss of his life, we also mourn the deaths of Mogamad Cloete, Tawqeer Essop and André Bennett, 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."

Ramaphosa said these crimes were a stark reminder of the levels of violence in the country.

He added that farm attacks, in particular, have far-reaching implications.

"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," he said.

No 'ethnic cleansing'

However, Ramaphosa said, the claim that violent crime on farms is part of an orchestrated campaign by black people to drive white farmers off their land is not true.

"Numerous studies show that crime in farming communities is 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. Contrary to the irresponsible claims of some lobby groups, killings on farms are not ethnic cleansing. They are not genocidal. They are acts of criminality and must be treated as such."

Ramaphosa said what happened in Senekal showed 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. 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. We must work together to root 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."

Majority of violent crime victims are black

He added that while crime affects everyone, the majority of victims of violent crime are black and poor. He said young black men and women are at a disproportionately greater risk of being murdered.

"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."

He said the violent protests in Senekal showed that "we have not yet escaped the divisions and mistrust of our past".

"While anger at the senseless killing is justifiable, vigilantism is not. 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.

Confront 'racial attitudes that prevent a united response'

"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."

He said South Africans must remain vigilant and work with the police to keep communities safe.

"We must not harbour criminals among us. In far too many instances, perpetrators are known to communities and are sheltered by them.

"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."

Read Ramaphosa's full letter here.

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