Every year, the list of farmers on the Wall of Remembrance at Nampo Park in Bothaville, Free State, grows longer.
This week, families visited the monument during the Nampo Harvest Day festival and added the names of loved ones killed in farm murders.
“The monument is a memorial to farmers who gave their lives, not in defending the country, but in trying to feed South Africa,” Agri SA’s Johannes Moller said.
A wall of remembrance was erected about 10 years ago, to honour all commercial farmers and their relatives who had been murdered since May 1961. The names are engraved on nine stone structures representing the country’s nine provinces.
Three pillars represent a husband, wife, and child. At the centre of the monument is a statue of a young man with his arm raised and holding a Bible, to signify farmers’ dependence on the mercy of God.
Moller said the monument represents the dark side of agriculture. He said Agri SA recently set up a trauma service due to increasing demand for counselling from farm workers and other people affected by farm murders.
Farm murders had been on the decrease, but this year the scourge had started increasing again.
Farmer Attie du Toit and his wife Annelie
Image by: Roxanne Henderson
Farmer Attie du Toit and his wife Annelie have barely slept and are totally off balance since their rural home was attacked two weeks ago.
Speaking at the release of the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa’s (TAU SA) mid-year statistics on farm attacks and murders on Tuesday‚ Du Toit said he and his wife had recently become a statistic.
Four armed robbers attacked Annelie‚ who was home‚ while Du Toit was away from their cattle farm in Tweedracht‚ east of Pretoria‚ on business.
The gang ransacked their home‚ bound Annelie and threatened her with rape and murder.
“They held an iron to her face and asked‚ ‘Do you feel the heat?’” Du Toit said.
Farm attacks‚ like the one on the Du Toit family home‚ are on the rise according to TAU SA’s latest statistics.
In June 2015 there had only been 131 farm attacks and 27 murders‚ compared with 186 attacks and 39 murders in June 2016.
Gauteng is the hardest hit‚ with 14 murders in the first half of 2016 compared with four in the first half of 2015. Only the Eastern Cape has not yet recorded a farm murder this year compared with three murders in June last year‚ the figures show.
The statistics in other provinces revealed the following:
- The North West had four murders in June 2016‚ up from two in June 2015.
- Limpopo had two murders in June this year‚ down from two in June last year.
- Mpumalanga had five murders in June this year‚ compared with two last year.
- KwaZulu-Natal had seven in June this year‚ while it had five in June last year.
- In June 2016 the Free State had three murders compared with four in June last year.
- The Western Cape was up with three murders in June 2016‚ compared with one in June 2015.
- The Northern Cape remained the same with one murder in June 2016 and one in June 2015.
Henry Geldenhuys‚ TAU SA deputy president and chairman of the organisation’s safety committee‚ estimated that by the end of 2016 the current figures for the year will have doubled. Traditionally attacks are rife over the Christmas period‚ he said.
Geldenhuys said that TAU SA’s figures are not random but collected meticulously. “Every attack has a name‚ date and farm name‚” he said.
Annelie‚ who kept her eyes closed during the attack‚ only identifying her four attackers by their shoes‚ said it is by God’s grace that she survived.
Over the past 26 years‚ others have not been so lucky‚ according to TAU SA’s statistics.
The organisation has recorded a total of 1‚824 farm murder victims since 1990 – 1‚170 were farmers‚ 491 were immediate family members‚ 141 were workers and 22 were visitors.
Dr Johan Burger of the Institute of Security Studies said that the climate of violence in South Africa is growing‚ against the backdrop of political and economic uncertainty.
He said social inequality is a contributing factor: “The have-nots are becoming more‚ which leads to the rebellion of those who are excluded.”
He commended the police‚ however‚ for its public commitment to tackle rural crime under the leadership of acting National Commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane.