White farmers in South Africa have the most
dangerous job in the country, are twice as
likely to be murdered than police and are killed
at four times the rate of the wider community, a
rights group claims
This week, as the government moves to seize all
white-owned land without compensation, civil
rights organisation AfriForum claimed there had
been 109 attacks which left 15 white farm
workers dead so far this year.
This follows 82 killings and 423 attacks in
2016, though none of the figures can be verified
because the South African government has refused
to release farm murder statistics since 2007.
Some of the killings are reported to have been
barbaric, with farm owners tortured, raped,
burned alive and slaughtered in front of their
Farm attack victims are usually restrained with
shoe laces, telephone wires or electric cables,
according to a previous AfriForum report.
Some have had their nails pulled out, had
boiling water poured over their bodies and been
beaten to death with makeshift weapons.
‘Some of the murders have been accompanied by
gratuitous violence and torture that can only be
explained as racial hatred,’ Australian National
University international law expert Associate
Professor Jolyon Ford told SBS.
In January this year, 86-year-old Piet Els and
his partner Rikkie Alsemgeest were the alleged
victims of a brutal attack which saw four black
men storm their farm, beat them with steel pipes
and burn them with an iron.
‘Piet, they burned on his back in three or four
places and burned on the back of his leg. They
stripped off his skin… I thought Piet was dead
because he was lying on the floor.
‘They put a cloth in my face and tied me to the
chair. They stripped off my top. I was naked.
They put some tape over my face and eyes. They
took my breast and twisted, humiliating me, not
saying a word.’
This week, a 40-year-old farm manager was tied
up and hacked to death by a group of attackers,
according to local reports. His wife was said to
have been raped.
Earlier this month, a woman was allegedly
‘repeatedly and violently’ sexually assaulted in
front of her young son as five attackers stormed
the family farm.
The group tied the family up in separate rooms
and told the woman they would harm her husband
if she didn’t comply, according to AfriForum.
The brother of another South African farm owner
who witnessed his murder spoke to Australian
activist Avi Yemini on Friday.
‘I could see the fear in his eyes before he was
shot. Then I tried to convince myself that my
brother was one of the lucky ones… His fear was
only for a few minutes,’ he said.
‘There are people that are being tortured for
nine hours and through the night.’
The South African government denies white people
are deliberately targeted and says farm murders
are part of South Africa’s wider violent crime
Afriforum claims 156 commercial farmers are
killed per 100,000 of the population, more than
four times the wider murder rate of 34 per
The group said it is forced to compile its own
statistics because the government stopped
releasing its own figures more than 10 years
‘Although the South African government denies
that a violence crisis is staring rural areas in
the face, the numbers prove that excessive
violence plague these areas,’ Ian Cameron,
AfriForum’s head of security, said.
‘The government cannot deny the facts – our
people are being mowed down… Our rural areas are
trapped in a crime war.’
Ernst Roets, AfriForum’s vice president, said
last year ‘political factors’ were fuelling the
‘We are concerned about hate speech, political
leaders who… would say for example ”the white
farmers should be blamed for everything”,’ he
The situation has worsened since the ruling
African National Congress joined with the
Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF) earlier
this month and announced a motion to confiscate
white-owned land without compensation.
EFF leader Julius Malema, who was previously
convicted of hate speech for singing the
outlawed apartheid-era song ‘Shoot the Farmer,’
said two weeks ago: ‘We are starting with this
whiteness. We are cutting the throat of
On Wednesday, he urged white South Africans to
‘go and live in a racist country like Australia’
in front of a cheering crowd during a Human
Rights Day rally in Mpumalanga.
‘A racist country like Australia says, ”EFF
wants to kill white farmers – they must come to
Australia”. If they want to go, they must go.
They must leave the keys of the tractors because
we want to work the land.
‘They must leave the keys of the houses, because
we want to live in those houses. They must leave
everything that they did not come with to South
He went on to say anyone who immigrated to South
Africa from Australia must ‘leave quietly’ and
added: ‘Don’t make a noise because you will
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton
last week announced controversial plans to
fast-track white South African farmers through
Australia’s refugee program.
‘If you look at the footage and read the
stories, you hear the accounts, it’s a horrific
circumstance they face,’ Mr Dutton told the
‘We have the potential to help some of these
people that are being persecuted.’
Mr Dutton directed his department to explore
whether the farmers can be accepted into
Australia through refugee, humanitarian or other
visas, including the in-country persecution visa
‘I do think on the information that I’ve seen,
people do need help, and they need help from a
civilised country like ours,’ Mr Dutton said.
Australian Greens leader Senator Di Natale said
Mr Dutton was invoking the White Australia
policy, questioning the difference between the
white South African farmers and the 700,000
Rohingya people forced from their homes.
‘The difference is that they are white and that
the other communities who are suffering — and
we’re talking about an ethnic cleansing in
Myanmar right now — that they’re not white,’
Senator Di Natale told Sky News.
Mr Dutton insists he is blind to skin colour and
will continue to bring in migrants based on the
‘It concerns me that people are being persecuted
at the moment — that’s the reality — the numbers
of people dying or being savagely attacked in
South Africa is a reality,’ he said.