South African Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday started a heated debate on the issue of farm murders as the recent scourge of farm attacks drew growing attention.
The debate took place after 42,000 South Africans signed a petition which was launched last month, urging an end to farm attacks.
South Africa, which is among the countries that have the highest murder rate in the world, has been gripped by farm murders for long. Since the country enforced a COVID-19 lockdown in late March, more farm murders have been reported.
There have been 21 murders and 147 attacks in these past four months alone, according to figures released in the National Assembly during the debate.
In the latest farm murder on Saturday, two farmers — Glen Rafferty and his wife Vida — were murdered on their farm in Normandien outside Newcastle in northern KwaZulu-Natal Province. Gunmen apparently ambushed the couple as they returned home.
“Our farmers are three times more likely to be murdered than a police officer,” Dianne Barnard, MP from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), said at the debate.
Barnard said she was shocked by hate comments over the murder on social media.
The DA has been reporting to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) the vicious and hate-filled social media posts which congratulate the murderers every time they kill a farmer or farmworker, Barnard said.
The debate also drew attention to the lack of security around farms.
Without support from the police, farmers have to protect themselves, doing nightly patrols around their farms, MPs heard.
“I know of wives who watch their husbands on cameras as they do their patrols in the dark. Watching for attackers, waiting to see if tonight is the night their beloved husband will be killed,” said Barnard.
Just before the debate started, Deputy President David Mabuza became the highest ranking official to condemn farm murders.
On Monday night, Mabuza issued a statement, saying he had learned with shock and dismay, of the brutal murder of farmers, Glen and Vida Rafferty.
Mabuza urged all South Africans to value farmers and farm workers, and to be relentless in pursuit of a better country, wherein all people lived in dignity and at peace with one another.
“The lives of farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers as well as every citizen of the country, black and white, matter,” said Mabuza.
It is for this reason that the government will continue to work with the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster to ensure prevention as a priority in dealing with farm murders, he said.
Mabuza called on the police to conduct thorough investigations and bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to book to ensure that justice is served for the victims.
Mabuza said he will on Friday convene the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform and Agriculture, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Committee.
The meeting will focus on the specific programs aimed at curbing violent attacks on farmers, which has negative impact of food production and security, he said.