Let us pray: South African farm murders
The congregation was bowed in Sunday prayer. The church doors burst open and four well armed men stormed in. Women began screaming, men protectively sheltered their loved ones from view – then the loud explosion of automatic rifle fire and pistol shots echoed through the vast church. M26 grenades were thrown into the crowded congregation, silencing those still screaming. Sunday, July 25th 1993 was a day few South African’s will ever forget. Untold churchgoers died that night. The world reeled in horror at the footage shown on television of the St. James church massacre.
Ironically, the Commander of the Marxist group that claimed responsibility for the attack subsequently wrote a book about how he personally ordered these murders and countless others. He claimed the target was selected because it was believed the congregation “was all White and that they would not be armed”. At his book launch he stated that, “Whites must share responsibility for the St. James Church massacre.” He said that the attack on the church “involved human feelings, and it was a painful experience and my approach would be to meet the survivors.” He continued saying that the “people have been betrayed by this new dispensation (referring to the ANC government) and that South Africa’s Black poor might resort to anarchy due to their continued suppression. The killings and rape and confiscation of White farms in neighbouring Zimbabwe might pale in significance to the potential mass anarchy and killing of Whites in South Africa in the future.” Hearing these words makes one wonder about the survivors, the ones that saw their friends and family blown to pieces by hand grenades. How did they feel about this man being welcomed back to the very community he massacred?
- During a Truth & Reconciliation Commission meeting in March 1997, PAC member, Mr. Sebolai Nkwedi testified that they “had been given orders to attack farmers.”
- During a National Assembly debate pertaining to the Extension of the Land Tenure Bill, on 28 August 1997, Mr. M N Muendane, Secretary General of the PAC, said ” … they stole the land from us.”
- ANC members in the Northern Province Legislature are reported to have stated after the 1999 general election “… we (the ANC) are a potentially dangerous and slumbering group who will teach our children to change legislation to ensure that we will own 87% of the land”. They continued saying that “the Blacks will reflect on this matter and hit back… there are other means we can apply which would make right-wing members leave the country in tears. “
Some 46-million people inhabit South Africa, a country approximately twice the size of Texas. The population is 77.4% black, 11.7% white, 8.4% of mixed racial composition and 2.5% Indian. Making it a near photo negative of the USA, whose white inhabitants constitutes some 85% of the nation. In 1991 South Africa boasted 85,000 commercial farmers – young militants have murdered 1,647 since then in more than 15,000 armed attacks. Since 1997 to 1999, the average number of farm strikes has increased by 82% and murders by 70%. The mass slaughter of our South African farmers is leading to massive food-insecurity in the country as there are now merely 35,000 commercial farmers left who need to produce sufficient food for South Africa’s 46-million people.
Interpol states that South African farmers have the most dangerous job in the world – the murder rate for this sector is 313 per 100,000 – the highest for any sector globally.
A surviving spouse of a farm murder has asked that her story be told, but as one of the perpetrators remains at large, she has asked that her identity not be revealed.
My world changed three years ago, on my daughter’s 7th birthday. My brother and his family joined us for a celebratory barbeque on our farm in a remote rural area in the Gauteng Province. A distress call came from an elderly lady living on a neighbouring farm. She was extremely concerned because her farm workers had reported suspicious looking people on the farm. My husband and brother immediately got into the pickup truck and sped off to assist her.
Soon my husband spoke on the CB radio in his vehicle and very calmly said there were three men on the road ahead. Simultaneously my brother spoke, “Where is he now?!” he sounded distressed. Then the radio went dead. That was the last time they ever spoke. A neighbouring farmer who also went to the elderly lady’s farm spoke on his CB radio, “I can’t stop! They’re shooting at me!” I knew immediately that something was badly wrong and left with two sons to investigate.
We found them inside the pickup truck, in the middle of the road at the entrance to the farm they were heading towards. My husband and brother had been shot several times and the pickup was riddled with bullet holes! My brother was already dead when we arrived. My husband died in my arms at the scene. Their executions were committed with military precision.
These men are trained to do this. I really believe that in some cases there might be a 3rd force behind these strikes as they are clearly premeditated and perfectly planned. These people know what to do and how to do it. The perpetrators watch the farms and get info from the farm workers. They study the setup and the house for a time to find out the routine of the people living there. In our case, it came out in court that my husband and brother’s murders had been planned for some months.
I suspect youths are hired and paid to do these deeds by a third party. These assassins do not care about a life. They will kill for a mere mobile phone or a small amount of cash. They make sure that they leave no witnesses either. They are bloodthirsty and, like man-eaters, I doubt they can stop killing. Both my husband and brother were shot execution style, in the back of the head, at point blank. The killers came from another town about 100 kilometres away, with the sole purpose of attacking the farm.
My uncle was killed in a farm attack some 10 years ago. In his case the sons of his domestic servant were his killers.
There has been a lot of talk and planning amongst the farmers, about implementing measures to prevent these crimes but as yet, nothing much has been done, due to lack of funds. The government ignores these farm murders, as it’s not a big enough crime. They give no support to the farmers – not even a statement that the attacks on farmers ‘will not be tolerated.’ Policing in the farming areas is bad and there is no security as such.
A lot of farm attacks go unreported by the media. Recently five attacks took place in one week and not one was shown on the local television news!
It is difficult to prove, yet I believe these attacks are closely linked to a campaign aimed at driving farmers off their land. But this is a different, more subtle way of securing agricultural property. The land is not being taken like they did in Zimbabwe, instead farmers are being killed, the farming community becomes fearful, the value of the land becomes worthless and farmers leave.
- According to a SAPA report, Brig Dan Mofokeng, a former APLA Commander stated to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that “… the leadership of APLA takes full responsibility for all these operations,” (referring to three specific terrorist attacks). “We do not regret that such operations took place and there is therefore nothing to apologize for.”
- Mr. Letlapa (Happy) Mphahlele, the man responsible for the St. James Church massacre and former director of operations of APLA, in evidence before the TRC on 12 December 1996, stated, “White farmers and the farming community had been a legitimate target.”
- Mr. Oupa Kgotle, a former commander in APLA, is reported to have said in a statement to the TRC on 26 March 1997, that the “White farmers had made a contribution to the economy of the apartheid regime and that this was the reason for the attacks on farms”. He further stated that he had been present when Mr. Jan Shoba, commander of a PAC Task Force in Botshabelo, gave orders for farming communities to be attacked.
- In an application to the TRC on 25 March 1997, Mr. Hendrick Leeuw, a convicted farm murderer, stated that he and other members of a PAC Task Force waited for their victim at the farm gate and shot him before attacking his lady friend, Leeuw also stated that he had grown up on his victim’s farm and bore no grudge against him, but had picked his target after his APLA commander, Mr. Jan Shoba, had given orders that farmers have to be attacked and killed. Two other assailants corroborated this statement and said the killing of White farmers had been one of the PAC’s political goals.
Victims are often tortured and killed in front of their families, corpses are found to be mutilated, people are tied up before they are executed, while women are raped. The attackers do more than merely slay their victims; they sadistically inflict pain, suffering and humiliation, especially on elderly people, not even sparing children.
The ANC government says, “Racism, lack of morality, poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment, in combination with other factors in the socio-political environment, are believed to be behind these attacks.” If this is so why are the police calling it ‘reverse discrimination’? Some folk even go as far as believing these mass murders may be State sponsored.
At what stage will the Western leaders take note? Would it require further protests outside South African embassies around the world? Special concerts to “Save the Farmers”? Tragically I and seemingly no one else, has a solution. It is sad that we cannot draw an imaginary line in the magic dust and say enough is enough, let us stop this now.
There is only one outcome of these hate crimes – it instils distrust and dislike amongst the diverse cultures of the nation. Hatred begets hatred but combating it with force will not work either. So, let us pray.
“Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”