The English rugby team slipped quietly back into the country yesterday. It was not the homecoming they wanted and will doubtless provide stark contrast with the welcome the Springbok side will receive when they land back in Johannesburg later today. Not only did the Amabokke win the world cup but they swept the board with rugby awards for the year, receiving the trophies for best team, best coach and player of the year.
They will return as conquering heroes and deservedly so but they are returning to a very troubled and divided land. The economy is lurching from crisis to crisis, political corruption is rampant and there is an epidemic of violent crime.
Nowhere is this epidemic more in evidence than in the farming community. Last month, there were twenty eight farm attacks and three farm murders, whilst one farm attack was successfully fought off. During September, there were forty six farm attacks and seven farm murders, whilst again, one attack was repulsed. Yet despite this continued reign of horror, government authorities continue to deny the existence of any problem in the farming community.
In August there were forty five farm attacks and four farm murders, whilst six attacks were successfully averted. In July, there were thirty nine farm attacks, four farm murders and four other farm attacks were fought off. In June, the figures were similar – thirty four farm attacks and six farm murders, whilst three attacks were repulsed. And in the first five months of the year there were one hundred and eighty four farm attacks and twenty farm murders.
Horrifying statistics I’m afraid yet the South African government says it is not happening! Other political leaders around the world seem to agree with them as they are all very quiet. Apart from Donald Trump in one speech, none have even referred to this attempt to destroy the South African farming community.
Yes I know these figures seem fairly minor in the general context of South African crime. After all, every year there are thousands of murders and tens of thousands of rapes. Muggings, assaults and hijackings are everyday occurrences so why should a few farm attacks matter?
For me, it is not the crimes themselves, it is the manner of them and the terror they imbue. I lived through the Rhodesian war and as a middle ranking police officer, was horrified witness to numerous farm attacks and the effects they had on farmers and their families. Most farmers live in isolated surroundings and work hard on their lands. Imagine then the terror of sudden gunfire at night and the violent confusion that follows.
I also reported covertly for the London Sunday Express for eleven years during the Zimbabwe farm invasions and yet again, I saw it all at first hand. Now it is happening in South Africa and the horrors continue while the rest of the world doesn’t even raise its collective voice in a disapproving murmur. Fewer than a dozen white Zimbabwe farmers lost their lives in the farm invasions, yet almost three thousand South African farmers have suffered the same fate, many in appalling circumstances.
Even while the Springboks were celebrating their stunning victory on Sunday, a brutal farm attack was taking place near Nelspruit, not far from the Kruger National Park. Four attackers entered the homestead while an elderly couple and their son were asleep in their beds. The attackers laid into the couple with pangas (machetes) demanding money and firearms. The son who woke during the assault opened fire on the attackers, hitting one but was wounded himself in the subsequent exchange of gunfire.
The gun battle caused the attackers to flee with one of the victim’s firearms whilst dragging their wounded accomplice with them. The man died as they ran and was left behind. His firearm was recovered by police.
All three victims were hospitalised while the police continue with their enquiries. I don’t suppose they will arrest anyone for this though.
On 31st October, a Newcastle farmer, Anton Pitout was attacked by a mob on his farm in Normandien in the Drakensberg mountains. He was very severely assaulted with knobkerries and other objects all over his body, head and face and was lucky to survive. This is the third attack he has endured this year.
A farmer who came to his assistance was also assaulted. The attack comes on the back of a dispute with land affairs and locals over a ninety hectare portion of his farm that he offered to them so that he could continue his farming activities on the rest of the land. Inevitably perhaps, they want more.
The local police are refusing to assist, claiming as they claimed in Zimbabwe that it was ‘a private matter.’ The South African Police have degenerated into a rabble I’m afraid, just as they have in my native Zimbabwe.
The day before the mass assault on Pitout, two people died as a result of being tied up and tightly gagged during another attack in Mpumulanga. Both suffocated behind their gags after brutal beatings but at least the police are said to be investigating.
I have chosen the least horrific of incidents to highlight here. There are others a hundred times more violent and difficult to read about. Old folk, children, helpless housewives and sometimes house servants have been brutally assaulted and put to death in nightmarish circumstances but the world still says nothing.
So despite the general euphoria at winning the rugby world cup, the question must surely be asked, why must South African farmers who are providing food for the country continue to be attacked, murdered and tortured without getting any help from police or government?
And why are world leaders so damned quiet about the situation. Trump apart, I suppose they are all too scared of being labelled ‘racist’ by the Great Unwashed.
What a sad reflection it all is on Society in the twenty first century!