Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development has slammed recent attacks on four farms in the Hartbeespoort area in North West province, but rejected suggestions they might be racially driven.
“Attacks on farms threaten the food security, employment figures and the economy of our country. Both farm workers and farm owners are of equal importance in the agricultural chain,” committee chairman Zwelivelile Mandela said on Tuesday.
Authorities have long rejected suggestions that farm attacks around the country are racially motivated against white landowners, noting that in many cases black farmworkers have also been attacked.
It says farm attacks are no different from other violent crimes besetting South Africa.
In its statement, the parliamentary committee reiterated: “We must guard against calling farm attacks racial crimes.”
“Any type of violence against women and children is abhorred, in one of the attacks this past week, a woman and her children were held captive in their house and their car and valuables stolen. We must ensure the reduction of crime against vulnerable groups,” it said.
Community policing forums and safety forums must be strengthened as part of the fight against the scourge of violent crimes, the committee added.
Last month the DA urged President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government to acknowledge the perpetual fear and danger that rural communities lived and worked in and take concrete action to fight farm attacks.
DA legislator and chairwoman of its rural safety workstream Dianne Kohler Barnard noted that annual crime statistics showed 49 farmers were killed last year and also cited “reliable reports” which said another 26 farmers and farm workers had been murdered in the first half of 2020 during some 141 attacks.
On Tuesday, parliament’s agriculture, land reform and rural development committee said rural farming communities were especially vulnerable as they are isolated and far from essential services such as emergency medical care, fire and police services.
“The urban/rural divide bequeathed to us by the legacies of colonialism, apartheid and further compounded by the slow pace of rural transformation and rural economic development, is a cause for grave concern and this bedevils our efforts to effectively wipe out crime,” said Mandela.
“We must ensure that we take collective responsibility for the safety and the development of rural communities. The killing of farmers and farm workers has tragically been with us for too long. It destroys rural neighbourhoods, leaving in its trail destruction, devastation and debilitating consequences beyond measure.”
He said the committee would work with the portfolio committee on police to ensure that rural communities, including farming ones, got the required protection and services from the South African Police Service.