Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Farm atrocities a threat to all Africa

The number of attacks on farmers in South Africa has reached the stage where a locally-based civil rights organisation has submitted a report to the United Nations, detailing the continuing series of atrocities.

AfriForum says it wants the world to understand what is going on in the country and to put pressure on the Government in Pretoria to address the situation. It claims the reports of murders, tortures, rapes and large-scale thefts are not being properly investigated by the police.

John Marais, of the minority rights organisation, South African Monitor, cites two recent examples:

“On 24 November this year, Irene Vermaak, a 66-year-old widow, was murdered on her farm…the attackers cut her throat and left her body in a pool of blood,” Marais says.

“The next day…different attackers strangled and killed Cesar de Sousa Lopes, a 59-year-old Portuguese resident, on his rural property.”

The AfriForum report describes assaults with steel pipes, machetes, and axes; victims being tortured by having their fingernails pulled out and boiling water poured down their throats, or being dragged along behind vehicles.

Deputy Chief Executive of AfriForum, Ernst Roets says the risk of farmers being murdered in South Africa is four times higher than for the average South African.

“These unacceptable levels of violence have dramatic consequences for food scarcity…yet the South African Government refuses to treat farm attacks as priority crimes or even release official statistics pertaining to these attacks,” Roets says.

“A mere 23 per cent of attackers are ever sentenced.”

AfriForum is compiling its own statistics and several other individuals have chronicled incidents going back a quarter of a century. In their book, Land of Sorrow, Dirk Hermann and Chris van Zyl detail more than 2,600 farm attacks between 1990 and 2010.  

In an age when terrorist outrages are reported around the world almost daily, when refugees are in the move in their hundreds of thousands and those who remain are barrel-bombed from the air, it is easy to dismiss South African farm murders as a matter that must be left to internal authorities to fix.

Some may go so far as to suggest that the mostly white farmers are simply victims of the pent-up rage left over from the apartheid era. Obviously that attitude is in direct contrast to the direction taken by the South Africa’s first majority President, Nelson Mandela and at least professed by his successors.

Most importantly, the attacks do have consequences — for the continent and the world.

As Roets says, a collapse of the agricultural system would lead to food shortages and eventually to famine that would spread beyond the nation’s borders. One only has to look at the situation in neighbouring Zimbabwe where the Mugabe Government deliberately forced farmers from their lands, replacing them with his incompetent supporters.

In just a few years the nation slumped from being the breadbasket of southern Africa to a basket-case dependent on aid from the World Food Program.  

High crime rates and unemployment, especially among young South Africans, are problems for the Government to solve. It will not be solved by undermining one of the nation’s cost crucial and productive industries.

That way lies disaster for all.     

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