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Farm attacks – SAPS sit on their hands

The perception of the general public is that crime in South Africa is out of control, with the problem growing more serious by the day. And they are right. The truth is, it is not a perception, it is a fact. And the SAPS are, seemingly, not only powerless to stem the bloodshed, they, in many cases, simply do nothing. By now, there is barely a family remaining in the country that has not been affected by the rising tide of robberies, rapes and murders. In response, the SAPS have, in multiple cases, not even bothered to take statements, never mind investigate. This is the true face of crime in South Africa today.

Of special relevance to THG readers is the rising number of farm attacks that are reported daily from around the country. In a telephonic interview with THG, civil rights organisation AfriForum’s head of Community Safety, Ian Cameron, said: “The growing number of farm attacks is a matter of national concern and AfriForum is doing all in its power to push for more effective policing to combat the problem.” Cameron went on to report that Afriforum had recorded a total of 98 farm attacks – resulting in a total of 45 murders – by 25 September 2014. As an indication of just how quickly this type of crime is growing, there were 22 reported incidents, involving five murders, in the month of August alone. He went on to criticise the SAPS for their poor performance in the following up and investigation a number of serious incidents: “In a number of cases that have been reported to AfriForum, the SAPS, despite declarations by high-ranking officers to “prioritise” investigations, have done nothing – often even months after the incident.”

As the majority of THG readers are resident in Mpumalanga, we have highlighted just a few of the multiple incidents that have in and around our home turf so far this year:

  • Leandra. Farmer, Tony Naude’ (64) was murdered on his farm, Watervalshoek, on 26 February. His body was discovered the following day by a neighbour – he had been bludgeoned to death with a brick. An SAPS officer, General Kekana, who was at the scene when the body was discovered, promised the victim’s family that the case would receive “top priority” and would be “handed over to the SAPS Organised Crime Unit for investigation”. The case was then handed to a Constable Shabangu from the Leslie police station. Since then, nothing has happened. Constable Shabangu’s excuse is that he has been “waiting for forensic results” – despite the fact that statements from eye witnesses, who saw the suspects running away, have, to date, not been taken. The official SAPS response to these and other complaints received from AfriForum and members of the victim’s family? “It is the responsibility of the public to come forward if they have information”.
  • Belfast. Farmer, Martin Coetzee (82) was attacked on his farm, Suikerboschkop, on 26 May by squatters who were illegally on his farm and were stripping building material from his stable roof. When Coetzee intervened, he was attacked from behind and felled by a blow to the head. He was subsequently tied to a pole and systematically beaten for nearly four hours. Only when police officers from the Belfast SAPS arrived on the scene was Coetzee, despite a broken arm and multiple injuries, able to free himself. According to Coetzee, the SAPS officers did not assist him, but instead, subsequently abandoned him at the scene and left with his attackers in their vehicle without taking any statements – merely saying to Coetzee that they “didn’t have time”. The case was subsequently reported and charges were laid against Coetzee’s attackers at the Belfast SAPS. According to Coetzee’s attorney, Mr. Tertius Kruger, there has been “absolutely no feedback and no progress on the case to date.”
  • Belfast. Josef Puleng Makua, an employee of the well-known Elandskloof Trout Farm was stabbed and subsequently bludgeoned to death on the farm on Saturday 30 August. Officers from the nearby Belfast SAPS only responded to the scene four hours later and no investigation was done because it was “too dark” by that time. An investigation only began the next day. Later on the same day, numerous sightings of the suspect on and around the farm were reported to the SAPS, but went un-attended as the duty police officer answering the phone said that the police were “too scared” to come out to the farm and arrest the man – despite the suspect having further threatened the lives of not only other workers, but the lives of the farm owners as well.
  • Paulpietersburg. Farmer Nico Lens and his wife Marsha were shot and killed on their farm outside the town on the night of 2 September. No progress has been reported on this case by Paulpietersburg SAPS to date.
  • Ermelo. Farmer, Thomas Opperman, was attacked on his farm outside Ermelo on 14 September by three men who are allegedly part of a group which has been mining illegally on his property. He was forced off the road while driving by another vehicle – the three occupants of which subsequently assaulted him. Whilst they were beating him, they also uttered death threats against both Opperman and his son. Opperman subsequently telephoned the Ermelo SAPS, reported the attack and asked them to come to the scene. After waiting nearly two days, the SAPS still had not arrived. Eventually, Opperman was forced to drive to Ermelo in order to open a case. There has been no reported progress on this case to date.

In incident after incident, the SAPS have shown that they are, seemingly, both unable and/or unwilling to put an end to farm attacks. Increasingly, it has fallen to individual farmers and landowners to defend their lives by whatever means necessary. This practical reality is not without considerable legal risk to farmers as, in being forced to do the SAPS’ job for them, they are often the first to be automatically charged with murder when attackers are killed in self defense. The reality, in many instances, is that after the remaining attackers have been driven off, the only available person(s) remaining alive and on-scene are often also the only ones available to be arrested and charged.

Multiple incidents such as this are exactly the reason for the phenomenal growth of civil rights organisations such as AfriForum – which recently reported record membership levels in excess of 100 000 ordinary South Africans. In the face of a vicious and deadly crime wave, such organisations are more and more frequently the only people prepared to stand up and fight for the ordinary civil and constitutional rights of both farmers and ordinary South Africans alike.