An open letter to President Ramaphosa

Dear Pres. Ramaphosa

Your open letter earlier today to South Africans in general and farmers in particular refers.

Thank you for writing it. At least you got involved in a debate that is heating up to dangerous levels. You have put a position on the table, and there is some reasoning behind it. It is clear that the majority of farmers – and this is the part of our farming community who has all the potential to bring our country to a standstill – do not share your position or the assumptions on which it is based.

The explosive polarisation of our society was ignited by yet another farm murder. Farmers, their sympathisers and friends are increasingly taking to the streets in protest against this horrible phenomenon, which has been denied and neglected – even fuelled – by your government. From all corners of the country they go to pay their respect and share in the pain of the victims and their loved ones. But they also go to express their disappointment with the poisonous environment that the ANC created and in which this phenomenon thrives. Their anger and frustration have reached boiling point, as was evident in Senekal last week. They go to demand that we bring an end to farm attacks (on average one every second day) and the gruesome murders (on average one every fifth day).

The EFF and factions within the ANC – like your Youth League – threaten to confront them in favour of farm murders. Your Youth League was quoted yesterday on the front page of the Sunday Independent, threatening war on farmers, who are blamed for the deaths of Solomon Mahlangu and Chris Hani. We have yet to hear your reaction to that, or from any other ANC leader.

You compare farm murders to the murders of Mogamad Cloete, Tawqeer Essop and André Bennett, three young men who were shot dead in the same week in a car in Delft in the Western Cape. It’s equally tragic, yes; but that is where the comparison ends.

In South Africa, farm attacks and especially farm murders are not the same as the other run-away statistics. There are three aspects in particular that distinguish farm murders from the rest.

First: Nobody is publicly asking for township or gang murders to be committed. There is no populist incitement to commit urban murders. There is no deliberate creation of a political climate that encourages it, as is in the case with farm murders. Farm murders followed on the ANC, its leaders and especially its Youth League singing “Umshini wam” (bring me my machine gun) and “Kill the farmer, kill the boer”, which the EFF has since inherited. Have you seen all the tweets and Facebook posts of machine guns and machetes, referring to the expected showdown in Senekal?

More importantly: Has your government done as much as raising a finger to do something about this? Quite the opposite. Just listen again to Minister Bheki Cele’s tantrum at the murder scene of the Rafferty couple in Normandien a fortnight ago, when he warned farmers that they should not cry when they get hurt in reply to a simple question on how they should respond to cattle being driven onto their farms to destroy their crops.

The source of the mistrust that you refer to is right there in your cabinet!

Second: Robberies and urban murders are not committed with the same level of brutal torture. Children are not forced to watch while their mothers are raped; their eyes are not gouged out; and grandmothers are not mutilated by steel drills through their knees. On 4 June 2019 AfriForum pointed out with absolutely shocking figures that in almost half of the incidents of this inhuman violence nothing had even been stolen. This is murder for the joy of it.

Third: After township murders follows no thunderous applause, especially on social media. Hundreds of radical Twitter accounts, with or without pseudonyms, welcome every report of yet another gruesome torture or murder scene and call for more of it, without any consequence. Law enforcers apparently lack the intention, ability or will to do anything about it.

No, there is no way that you can convince us or the world that farm murders are just mere extensions of a general ethos of violence and murder that are engulfing our country.

What can be done?

First, you and the ANC must recognise the problem. If not, any solution is impossible. It is unlikely to happen by itself. Social, political and particularly foreign pressure must be used to get the ANC to comply.

Second, you must intervene. You must set up an urgent discussion with more than just the agricultural structures who sing your praises and support your views on farm attacks. You must also engage with networks and civil rights movements such as ourselves in Saai, AfriForum, the Solidarity Movement and Institute of Race Relations, who speak out on behalf of farmers and who express their views, frustrations and anger.

You must defuse the situation now, while it is still possible. Do this before it escalates further!

I am sure that you must have noticed that the tide of international opinion has turned. More foreign newspapers and television stations now report on farm murders, and many are already questioning your statement at the UN’s General Assembly in 2018 in New York that farmers are not being murdered.

What is needed now is action. A specialist unit must be established to take pre-emptive action through intelligence linking. It is unforgiveable that no progress has been made in 15 years in terms of the SAPS’s commitment after the dissolution of the commandos, namely to establish a reservist force.

A small but significant step would be to stop disarming farmers who want to utilise the amnesty for the renewal of licenses – most who have missed deadlines because of poor service delivery in rural police stations. This leaves them vulnerable in the worst time and under the worst conditions ever. There is no logical reason for this. At least such a decision will show some sensitivity to the voice of reason and sense of comprehension from your side – and you need it.

I often wish that you and your colleagues, especially your ministers in the security cluster, would visit the scene of a farm murder just once. You should smell it and see it: the bestial brutality of the torture; the blood on the ceilings and the walls. Only then can you really engage the farming community on this topic with authority and experience.