The loss of human life in farm attacks while a tragedy has another side to it – that of food security – with two political parties pleading for better rural security.
Freedom Front Plus (FF+) Limpopo provincial legislature Marcelle Maritz echoed party leader Pieter Groenewald’s comments around eight farm murders in six weeks as indicating “inflammatory songs and statements do incite murder” in relation to Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema being found not guilty of hate speech. Maritz said the murder of Nicky Janse van Rensburg last week as well as “serious injuries” to two other people was further evidence of the effect of inflammatory words, whether sung or written.
“Continued attacks on the wider agricultural community not only impacts farmers, their families and workers but can – and probably will – affect continued food security in South Africa,” the Limpopo provincial FF+ leader said.
Taking a different line, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development Noko Masipa saw the “one of the bloodiest months” for the agricultural sector scaring the sector as well as potential investors and farmers.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government are “implored” to protect farmers and farm workers by four actions. They are providing rebates on farm security costs, increasing visible police patrols in rural areas, improving roads and networks in these areas and providing regular intelligence and alerts to the agricultural community.
According to Masipa “agriculture contributes at least three percent to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and almost 10% if the entire value chain is added”.
“A study by AgriSA in 2018 reflects at least 70% of farmers experienced some sort of crime on their farms. These crimes cost the economy R7.7 billion.
“Many farmers in South Africa are struggling to keep heads above water with the industry indebted to the tune of over R130 billion. Farmers must service these debts under the harsh reality of possibly being killed while working their farms.”
On an annual basis, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has reduced budget allocations for farmers he said adding there’s no alignment on tackling emerging issues. These include increased crimes on farms, high input costs of production, farm labour support and high costs of in-kind support provision.
“With unemployment so high, many South Africans are food insecure and families going to bed hungry, there should be a national outcry about killings and attacks of farmers and farm workers, climate change threats and high costs of agricultural production.
“These are real threats to agriculture providing food and protecting employment in the sector. Coupled with farm killings they have the potential to destabilise the country and the economy even further,” he said.
The Transvaal Landbou Unie (TLU) added its voice expressing concern at the brutality of some recent farm attacks.
“Brutally murdering a Waterval Boven farmer for his bakkie is one example,” Gawie Lotter manager: safety for the Pretoria headquartered agricultural representative organisation said.
We are seeing not only an increase in farm attacks and murders but an escalation in brutality. There are also livestock theft, theft of farm equipment and theft of weapons that end up in the wrong hands. This is especially concerning and dangerous,” he said.