Sunday, November 3, 2013

9 farm murders in six months in KZN - Mark Steele

9 farm murders in six months in KZN - Mark Steele
Mark Steele
02 November 2013

DA MPP says random slaughter of the province's farmers should be widely condemned

Speech by Mark Steele MPP, DA KZN spokesperson on Agriculture, during a sitting of the KZN Legislature on Thursday, October 31 2013

Farm murders in KwaZulu-Natal

Madam Speaker

The occupation of farming should be deeply respected and admired. Farmers after all provide us with the food for life, and in nearly every country and culture they are valued for their contribution to human society. Even as Africa urbanises, and it is predicted the continent will soon have 60% or more of its population living in cities, this respect for farmers continues.

KwaZulu-Natal is closely following this urbanising trend with the majority of its citizens now living in the Ethekweni Metro, Msunduzi, Umhlatuze and Newcastle. This pattern of settlement makes for even greater dependency by city dwellers on farmers.

So the random slaughter of the province's farmers should be widely condemned.

It is after all an attack on all of us, even those of us who call the cities our homes. It is an attack on our collective food security, quite apart from being an unwarranted and often brutal attack on the lives and families of those whose only crime is to be farmers.

Because of the very nature of their occupation farmers live relatively isolated from each other. Their very isolation makes them vulnerable and prey to criminals who demonstrate a breath-taking callousness in the violence they visit upon their victims.

Just in the last 6 months our province has seen 9 murders, at farms near Newcastle, Winterton, Himeville, Carisbrook, Ixopo, Eston, Wartburg, Greytown and Vryheid. Those who died were all middle-aged or elderly men much like those who sit in this very chamber, fathers and grandfathers, some in their sixties or seventies.

And yes, they were often, but importantly not only, of the race group which would previously under the apartheid laws have been classified as white. It is impossible to discuss the issue of farm murders without acknowledging the racial aspect of these crimes, much as one would like to avoid trivialising such atrocities as being just another manifestation of our twisted apartheid legacy.

I would wish that when such an incident occurs the media would not report it as an attack on a ‘black' or ‘white' famer as though the race of the victim somehow excused or explained what had happened. It should be enough to report with due respect for a tragic incident that another farmer has been killed, another life lost, another family devastated. We need to move beyond the racist rhetoric of the past to an appreciation that attacks on farmers are directly attacks on every part of the farming community, of every race and background, and indirectly on every one of us who is happy to buy their food but then does not share a sense of solidarity and pain with the victims and their families.

Farmers today need to ensure that their security and emergency communication equipment is of the very best just to be able to live in safety. They need to organise networks of mutual support and quick response teams to get to life-threatening incidents quickly. They also need far more support from the police and the wider community in their battle with criminality - because that is what we are dealing with here. It's not a left-over of some battle for political liberation, of a struggle for equal rights and dignity for people of all races. It's not a subject for hate-speech inspired songs and racist mobilisation. No. It's a blatant criminality and we expect that all the forces of the state should be mobilised to deal with the problem.

From MEC's for Safety and Security and Agriculture, to national Ministries of Justice we need action both to protect farmers and to bring to swift justice those responsible for these crimes.

To conclude with a quote. "The inability of government to deal with crime has a huge impact on successful agriculture. It is virtually impossible to calculate the enormous cost of crime to farmers, to consumers and to the country." Kwanalu security spokesperson.

We need the political will to bring all the forces of government to bear on crime against the entire farming community.

Issued by DA KZN, November 1 2013

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