Farm murder statistics – how severe is the situation in South Africa?

Whether the murder ratios are trending downwards or the farm murder ratios are lower than that in the general population or amongst policemen, this is not the issue. The issue is that people are being viciously murdered in a particular segment of our society that is having a dramatic impact on them, the economy of this country and our image in the international community. Consequently, a specific strategy must be implemented by government and the SAPS in collaboration with the relevant agricultural associations to stop farm attacks and murders.

Dr Chris de Kock in this webinar, reviews the number of murders committed from 1998/99 to 2019/ 20. In 1998/99 there were 153 farm murders registered by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and 49 in 2019/20. This shows that based on the SAPS’s statistics there has been a consistent downward trend in farm murders. Based on this trend and the first quarter crime statistics released in 2020, it is likely that the number of farm murders will decline below 40 in 2020/21.

It was reported on the day of the presentation (4 September 2020) on Radio702 that 30 murders had occurred in June 2020 alone, according to one of the farming associations. If one compares the official statistics on farm murders with these figures, one has to ask the question - which ones are correct? If it is the latter, we should be worried as this is a huge crisis. Part of the problem Dr de Kock points out in his webinar, is the lack of sub-category classification of crimes to ensure the collecting of the most accurate statistics on farm murders.

In the past and more recently in parliament, there have been debates on whether the number of farm murders are worse than that in the general population or amongst policemen, as an example. If one uses scenarios of the size of the farming population, for example, a figure of 30 000 commercial farmers is often quoted, then the ratio of farm murders is 163.3, which is extremely high. This is then significantly higher than the national figure of 36.3 murders per 100 000 population or the murder of policemen which is 37.4 per 100 000 population.

If one takes into consideration the definition used to describe farm murders then the size of the farming population is much higher than 30 000. If the farming population is in the region of 480 000 people then the ratio of farm murder would be lower than that of both the national and policemen murder ratios. If one use 2017 demographic estimates and Statistics South Africa’s definition of the commercial farming population, then the number of people living in these rural areas is 3.2 million. Using this figure as the denominator, the ratio of farm murder per 100 000 population is then significantly lower than that of the murder ratios in the general population or among policemen.

The National Rural Safety Strategy fulfill the requirement to tackle farm attacks and murders, necessitating an increase in capacity and capability of the SAPS, improving policing by going back to basics and improving policing infrastructure in rural areas. Other pillars of the strategy include improving governance, communication, community and stakeholder involvement, threat assessment and monitoring and evaluation. These are laudable objectives, but this has to be effectively implemented and it needs to be done now, Especially to reduce farm attacks and murders.

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