Every farmer in South Africa – large and small, poor and rich, black and white, regardless political affiliation – wants to know: How are we supposed to farm if communal cattle are driven into our fields at night, destroying our crops? How can farming flourish if there is no respect for property or subsistence rights? The spate of words from Bheki Cele, Minister of Police, before farmers in Normandien – after this question was directed at him in a polite manner – uncovers the core of the problem and the ANC’s role in this.
The Minister never answered the question after his emotional outburst. Farmers hope that opposition parties in parliament will continue asking this question, however.
Trespassers torched the farm of a successful black farmer outside Tzaneen on 18 August and cut his fences and stole property. Over the past weekend they broke off his faucets of his irrigation dam. The trespassers have been harassing the farmer for years on end, while the SAPS refuses to open a case.
In the North West, farming activities came to all but a halt in the Hartbeesfontein area because the SAPS fails to remove union-incited squatters from commercial farms. The legal costs that farmers incur to have the law enforced amount to more than the value of their farms.
AfriForum intervened in June to have 500 land occupiers removed from small farms of black, white, brown and Indian farmers in Elandsfontein, south of Johannesburg, after the SAPS had refused to enforce a court order.
Minister Cele’s outburst further creates policy uncertainty and scepticism among local land owners as well as international commercial partners and investors, who fear that ad hoc land occupations rather than changes to the Constitution – as had happened in Zimbabwe – would be the trigger for an economic implosion.
Minister Cele’s visit to Normandien came after the murder of the Rafferty couple, which made international headlines. Since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s denial in 2018 at the UN’s General Assembly in New York – namely that farm murders are no problem in South Africa – international interest in farm attacks skyrocketed. Saai participates almost every week in digital conferences on this theme. Video footage of behaviour like that of Cele’s provide ample proof of how the ANC is creating a climate in which farm attacks proliferate and why international pressure is essential to enforce the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in South Africa.
Saai’s family farmers resolution, launched in Rome last year within the context of the UN’s Decade of the Family Farmer, emphasises the crisis that expropriation without compensation and farm attacks are causing in the South African agricultural environment. The resolution enjoys wide support locally as well as abroad. Minister Cele’s outburst places the ANC central in the incitement of the most difficult problem that face family farms. The respect that Cele screamingly demands, like trust, is unfortunately not deserved – and definitely not enforceable.