President Cyril Ramaphosa has stuck his head above the parapet on Monday morning, during his weekly letter to the nation. He’s tackled the scourge of farm murders, following chaotic scenes outside of a courtroom in Senekal, Free State last week.
Two suspects, thought to have killed a young farm manager, appeared in the dock – only to be confronted by a mob of farmers who attempted to exact their own version of justice upon the criminals. Outside of the venue, police vehicles were set alight and protesters clashed with police. Tensions over farm murders had officially reached boiling point.
Cyril Ramaphosa rejects claims farm murders are ‘racially motivated’
Ramaphosa has sought to reject the racial narratives that often dominate the discourse with these types of crimes. The president immediately rejected the notion of a ‘white genocide’ in South Africa, saying that farm murders and attacks are motivated by opportunity, rather than race:
“The claim that violent crime on farms is part of an orchestrated campaign by blacks to drive white farmers off their land is simply not borne out by fact. Numerous studies show that crime in farming communities is largely opportunistic.”
“Rural communities are more vulnerable because of their isolated location and, as a result, the relative lack of access to security and other services. Contrary to the irresponsible claims of some lobby groups, killings on farms are not ethnic cleansing. They are not genocidal. They are acts of criminality and must be treated as such.”
President Ramaphosa on Senekal protests
Ramaphosa was particularly concerned by the Senekal incident, saying that a ‘tinderbox of race hatred’ had been ignited by the demonstrators. Cyril has implored the rural community not to classify these attacks by skin colour:
“The violent protests that took place in Senekal following the arrest of suspects in Brendin Horn’s murder show that we have not yet escaped the divisions and mistrust of our past. While anger at the senseless killing is justifiable, vigilantism is not. What happened in Senekal shows just how easily the tinderbox of race hatred can be ignited.”
“As a nation, we must resist any attempts to use crime on farms to mobilise communities along racial lines. One murder is a murder too many. We stand in solidarity with all victims of crime, regardless of whether they live in cities or on farms, whether they are farmers or farm workers. It should not matter to us if the victim of violent crime is black or white.”
How can farm murders be prevented?
The president also made a number of suggestions for strengthening the safety networks available to rural communities:
- Ramaphosa wants to see ‘more collaboration’ between farm watch organisations and Community Policing Forums.
- Traditional leaders ‘should be empowered to play a greater role’ in safety in farming communities, according to the president.
- Farmers need to more readily ‘provide access to their lands to law-enforcement officials’.
- Cyril says private security companies operating in farming communities ‘need to work more closely with the SAPS’.
- Investment in rural development – to tackle the severe inequality that persists in farming communities – is seen as another solution to the recent spate of farm murders.
From The Desk of the President – Monday, 12 October 2020 –
https://t.co/Se745NUxMN Just over a week ago, Brendin Horner, a young farm manager in the Free State, was murdered in an appalling act of cruelty.
His killing should anger and upset every one of us. pic.twitter.com/BRETJIz1xB
— Presidency | South Africa (@PresidencyZA) October 12, 2020