South African farm murders, mostly committed in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Freestate, are escalating despite lockdown and many victims are suffering torture by burning, beating and stabbing at the hands of their violent attackers.
The province that is recording the lowest level of farm murders is the Western Cape followed by the Northern Cape and Limpopo.
This was among the findings of a research report entitled Farm Murders in South Africa 2020 – An analysis of recorded incidents compiled by Andrea Muller and released by Afriforum on Wednesday.
“South Africa witnessed a general decrease in crimes from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020, the scope of this report. This decrease can be attributed mainly to the multiple lockdowns, and especially to the hard lockdown between 27 March and 1 May 2020. However, farm murders, which are still not classified or treated as priority crimes, unfortunately did not follow the same pattern,” the report found.
According to the report 63 farm murders were recorded in 2020, which represents a 28% increase compared to the 45 farm murders recorded in 2019. These include all incidents that fit the official definition of the SAPS’s National Rural Safety Strategy and which could be confirmed. The definition excludes cases that relate to domestic violence or alcohol abuse, or cases that resulted from commonplace social interaction between people or any labour disputes.
FARM MURDER REPORT SHOWS FARM WORKERS KILLED
Most of the murder victims were farm owners or farmers on the property (66%), while family and visitors comprised 26% of victims followed by farm workers (8%). Almost a quarter of murder victims were between 60 and 69 years old, while the majority of victims (63%) were older than 50 years.
The majority of murders occurred in KZN which recorded 24% of cases, followed by 22% in Gauteng; 14% in the Freestate; 13% in the Eastern Cape; 11% in Mpumalanga; 8% in Limpop, 5% in the Northern Cape and 3% in the Western Cape. North West was the only province that did not recorded any farm murders.
“The high incidence of farm murders in KwaZulu-Natal is great cause for concern. Fifteen farm murders were recorded for KwaZulu-Natal in 2020, compared to six farm murders recorded in 2019. Gauteng follows closely in second place with 14 murders during 2020, an increase from five farm murders in 2019,” the farm murder report found.
The research found that were 382 confirmed farm attacks during 2020, a decrease from the 511 farm attacks that occurred in 2019. Most attacks occurred in August 2020. “It must be noted that these numbers are not necessarily a true reflection of all attacks that occurred, because the media or different networks do not always report on every case,” the report said.
“The decrease can be attributed to the lockdown, which restricted people’s movements and resulted in more police patrols. However, the attacks were not less violent. Many attacks were extremely violent in nature, and victims were tortured and left traumatised. In one incident, a North West couple was left with burns, broken ribs and multiple head wounds after three attackers ambushed them on their farm.”
FARM MURDER VICTIMS TORTURED IN 20% OF CASES
According to the farm murder report at least one form of torture was inflicted on victims in 20% of the incidents. “Forms of torture include burning, beating or stabbing the victim to death. In many incidents, the perpetrators displayed the body of the murder victim. In two separate incidents, the victims’ bodies were put on display – one was tied to a tree and the other to a pole,” the report said.
In another horror farm murder report, pregnant Zakiyya Ahmedjan was killed in her home on July 4, 2020. The attackers dragged her into the bathroom and slit her throat. Her other two children were in the house at the time.
ATTACKERS’ WEAPONS OF CHOICE
Weapons used in farm attacks ranged firearms and knives to blunt objects and some victims were also beaten and kicked to death. Attackers often used any available object to kill their victims and household items to tie them up, such as phone chargers, shoelaces or any other wires or cables.
“On average, there were between two and three attackers per incident, while the number of attackers varies from one to five attackers per incident. It is possible that more attackers were involved in an attack, because victims were traumatised and do not always remember all the details. Some of the attackers may enter the house while the others wait outside,” the report said.
Most farm murders were committed between 7pm and 3am when most victims were vulnerable – most likely asleep – and caught off guard. Attackers often used this surprise element to their advantage, because victims were unprepared and had little opportunity to defend themselves. Monday and Saturday were the days most farm murders were recorded with 25% and 20% of cases reported on these says respectively.
“Despite numerous protests in 2020 – most notably the Senekal protest – government still denies that this crime phenomenon should be prioritised. Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, paid a few visits to farms in 2020 to condemn these violent attacks and murders, and to offer his condolences to families of the victims. That said, however, no further steps were taken to prioritise or prevent future farm attacks and murders,” the report found.