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What is ambiguous about it?

When does murder become a slaughter?

by Gerhard Papenfus


This is a response to an article titled: ‘Genocide on the farms? Show us the facts’ published by Sunday Times on 25 March 2018 (click here to view this article).

I believe many, especially those deeply affected by the murder of farmers, either directly or indirectly, will find the abovementioned article extremely disturbing.

My parents were victims of a farm attack. After being severely assaulted, they were abducted and dumped in a field 50 kilometres away from where the initial incident took place – in their farmhouse. Their survival was a miracle, but their lives changed irrevocably.

How insensitive of the author to refer to this national tragedy as ‘this farm murder story’? This is no ‘story’; this is real, but of course not for anyone who is so far removed from this reality that it does not affect them at all.

Even the first sentence of this article is in poor taste and I quote – ‘A week ago I had one of those moments on social media when you get turned on for nothing. Well, almost nothing’. Perhaps I do not understand the context; perhaps I misunderstand the author, but I find this repulsive. I say this because every life counts, and every murder darkens the blood stains on our collective hands. We, as a nation, have become desensitised to this terrible ordeal.

The author’s choice of words in this article (for example ‘this farm murder story’ and ‘the white genocide story’), possibly unintentionally, results in diluting the seriousness of these crimes. It also seems as if he attaches a commercial value to the farm murder – he wants to know whether the victim is a farmer on a ‘5000-hectare cabbage farm in Limpopo’ or a farmer on a ‘smallholding in Muldersdrift’ – and the age of the farmer.

I find it quite absurd that the author, and according to him many others, find it difficult to agree on what constitutes a ‘farm’ or even a ‘farm murder’. Isn’t a farm murder simply the murder of a farmer – whether it is a commercial farmer or a small farmer, whether young or old, rich or poor, whether a primary food producer or simply making an honest living – or even an old semi-retired farmer (because farmers seldom fully retire), spending his last days on the land he treasures?

Farmers are exposed to a remote and solitary existence, causing them to be exceptionally easy prey for those possibly motivated by the likes of the late Peter Mokaba and Julius Malema’s inciting, propagandistic song ‘kill a boer, kill a farmer’. Is the fire of slaughtering and torturing not kindled by a song of this nature? I am of the view that it is.

After all, when does a murder become slaughter? When will the loss of human life move the author? Does anyone expect an official announcement, based on the number of murders and the brutal nature thereof, that farmers have become politically motivated targets, whose protection deserves priority attention? Only time will tell. What we currently have is deliberate denial – for the sake of political convenience.

The author of the abovementioned article expresses the view that the agricultural boom which has taken place since 1994 could not have taken place ‘in the middle of a farmer genocide’. I disagree: the fact that farmers are continuing to produce efficiently, even under these very difficult circumstances, is simply testimony of their resilience, resolve and their absolute devotion to and love for farming – and not of the absence of the severe and life threating challenges they are facing daily.

I fully agree with the author: a murder is a murder and appalling whether it takes place on the ‘Cape Flats, in rural Transkei or in downtown Johannesburg’. There is nothing wrong however when the plight of farmers is highlighted – by those who identify with them, those reliant on them and those with an in-depth understanding of the severity of this tragedy currently playing out. However, much more needs to be done to alleviate the plight of all victims of crime across South Africa.

In conclusion, isn’t it sad that the world is waking up to this reality while South Africa is in denial?

This article is by Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA). He writes this in his personal capacity.