AfriForum Report: Five Farm Attacks Per Week, One Farm Murder Per Month in 2023

South African NGO AfriForum has today released their 2023 report on the state of farm attacks and farm murders in the country. While the number of farm attacks decreased in comparison to 2022 statistics, the murder rate remained relatively the same.

What You Need to Know:

As defined by the South African Police Service (SAPS), a farm attack refers to “[a]cts of violence against person(s) living in rural areas, including farms and smallholdings, refer to acts aimed at person(s) residing in, working in, or visiting rural areas, whether with the intent to murder, rape, rob or inflict bodily harm.”

Source: AfriForum 2023 farm attack report

AfriForum notes that this definition excludes “incidents that are related to domestic violence or alcohol abuse, cases that result from commonplace social interaction between people, and any labor disputes.”

In South Africa, farm attacks and farm murders are characterized by extreme brutality, including the use of power tools, machetes, and chemicals to torture victims; rape is also common. For example, in August 2023, a Pietermaritzburg couple was attacked at their smallholding. The female victim was “beaten with a bolt cutter and lead pipes, and eventually stabbed with a spear while her attackers chanted ‘kill the Boer, kill the farmer.'”

The chants “kill the Boer, kill the farmer,” “call the fire brigade, burn the Boer” as well as “shoot to kill, kill the Boer, kill the farmer,” with Boer being the Afrikaans word for farmer, have been utilized for many years by various South African political parties. Most notably, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by Julius Malema. Malema campaigns on a policy of land expropriation without compensation, which puts him and his party at odds with the country’s farmers.

Most recently, at the EFF’s manifesto launch in early March, the chant “shoot to kill, kill the Boer” was sung by several thousand EFF supporters gathered at Soweto’s Dobsonville stadium.

Opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has repeatedly called for the prosecution of Malema for his use of the chant, claiming he is attempting to incite mass murder, as farm murders in recent years have become increasingly violent.

For example, in October 2023, four perpetrators of the murder of Western Cape farmer Jurie Wynand Wessels and his wife were charged, with the court’s prosecutor stating, “the accused tortured the deceased and his wife by stabbing them. They poured boiling water over the victims, attempted to cut off the deceased wife’s fingers with a grinder and when the deceased and his wife prayed, cried, or talked to each other, they would be punched in the mouth.”

Source: AfriForum 2023 farm attack report

The Details:

The report outlines that there were 296 farm attacks in 2023, a decrease from the 339 attacks that occurred in 2022.

However, there was just one less farm murder in 2023 than in 2022. The report also adds that 83% of attacks occur in Gauteng province, which also has the lowest arrest rate for perpetrators at 11%.

Moreover, 81% of murder victims whose gender could be identified were male, while 19% were female. The report states, “the youngest murder victim was a 14-year-old boy who was shot in the chest at point-blank range. The oldest murder victim was an 87-year-old man who, together with his son, was ambushed by five armed suspects on his farm.”

“51% of victims were shot – either once or several times. In one case, a victim and his life partner were shot six and four times respectively. In another case, a victim was shot at point-blank range before two attackers entered his home and assaulted his wife. In 27% of cases victims were either assaulted and/or bludgeoned to death, either with or without objects such as knives, sharp instruments, or blunt objects. (This category also includes victims whose throats were slit.) Some victims were so severely assaulted that the act caused their death, as was the case of one Eastern Cape farmer who was beaten in addition to being tortured with a burning object. In another case, a husband was stabbed in the neck, and his wife’s throat was slit. Two elderly victims, one male and one female, were robbed on a farm in Limpopo and are presumed to have been burned alive.”

So, What Now?:

While the slight decrease in farm attacks is a welcome development, the lack of a meaningful decrease in farm murders is worrying. Particularly in the lead-up to the country’s election on May 29th, where the ruling African National Congress (ANC), who is polling for the first time under 50%, may be forced to form a coalition with the likes of the EFF to maintain its hold on power. The unstable political environment in the country has already led investors to dump millions of dollars of South African equities, as well as resulted in the departure of several large companies and banks such as Shell and BNP Paribas. The latest company to announce its exit from the country, after operating for 76 years, is Rolex.

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.


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