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RURAL CRIME IN SOUTH AFRICA: AN EXPLORATORY REVIEW OF 'FARM ATTACKS' AND STOCKTHEFT AS THE PRIMARY CRIMES IN RURAL AREAS

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RURAL CRIME IN SOUTH AFRICA: AN EXPLORATORY REVIEW OF 'FARM ATTACKS' AND STOCKTHEFT AS THE PRIMARY CRIMES IN RURAL AREAS

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Generally, over the years rural crime in South Africa has been largely ignored and/or under-researched by academics, particularly from a criminological perspective. With the recent exception of a focus on wildlife poaching in rural areas (or more specifically the poaching of rhino), and to a lesser extent on stocktheft as a rural crime, most of the attention on rural crime in South Africa has been directed towards the so-called 'farm attacks', which have, more often than not, been taken out of context and/or politicised. Part of the problem in researching rural crime in South Africa has been of a definitional nature. For instance, in farm attacks, who are the 'farmers' and what constitutes a 'farm'? An example of the semantic confusion has been the fact that Gauteng Province-the smallest of the nine provinces in land area, but the industrial and economic heartland of South Africa-has the highest number of registered 'smallholdings/plots', but many of the owners/residents of such properties live there because of a lifestyle choice and not for any commercial or for-profit-farming enterprises. Also ignored in the analysis of rural crime are many of the 'other' victims of farm attacks, namely the farm workers and members of their families. Overall, as a rural crime, stocktheft in fact represents the biggest economic and crime impact on rural economies even though the usual range of violent crimes also occur in rural areas. This article seeks to broadly unpack rural crimes-with an exploratory focus on 'farm attacks' and stocktheft-within the context of South African areas outside of the major urban areas, inter alia touching on such aspects as the demise of the Commando System of rural protection and its belated replacement with a National Rural Protection Plan in the late 1990s. From a number of the reports on farm attacks it was generally found that the primary motive for farm attacks was robbery and that such farm attacks should be dealt with and policed inclusively with all other forms of rural crime including that of livestock theft, particularly within the structures of the 2011 National Rural Safety Strategy.
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RURAL CRIME IN SOUTH AFRICA: AN EXPLORATORY REVIEW OF ‘FARM
ATTACKS’ AND STOCKTHEFT AS THE PRIMARY CRIMES IN RURAL AREAS
Willie Clack1,2 and Anthony Minnaar3
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ABSTRACT
Generally, over the years rural crime in South Africa has been largely ignored and/or under-
researched by academics, particularly from a criminological perspective. With the recent
exception of a focus on wildlife poaching in rural areas (or more specifically the poaching of
rhino), and to a lesser extent on stocktheft as a rural crime, most of the attention on rural crime
in South Africa has been directed towards the so-called ‘farm attacks’, which have, more often
than not, been taken out of context and/or politicised. Part of the problem in researching rural
crime in South Africa has been of a definitional nature. For instance, in farm attacks, who are the
‘farmers’ and what constitutes a ‘farm’? An example of the semantic confusion has been the fact
that Gauteng Province the smallest of the nine provinces in land area, but the industrial and
economic heartland of South Africa has the highest number of registered ‘smallholdings/plots’,
but many of the owners/residents of such properties live there because of a lifestyle choice and not
for any commercial or for-profit-farming enterprises. Also ignored in the analysis of rural crime
are many of the ‘other’ victims of farm attacks, namely the farm workers and members of their
families. Overall, as a rural crime, stocktheft in fact represents the biggest economic and crime
impact on rural economies even though the usual range of violent crimes also occur in rural areas.
This article seeks to broadly unpack rural crimes with an exploratory focus on ‘farm attacks’
and stocktheft within the context of South African areas outside of the major urban areas, inter
alia touching on such aspects as the demise of the Commando System of rural protection and its
belated replacement with a National Rural Protection Plan in the late 1990s. From a number of
the reports on farm attacks it was generally found that the primary motive for farm attacks was
robbery and that such farm attacks should be dealt with and policed inclusively with all other
forms of rural crime including that of livestock theft, particularly within the structures of the 2011
National Rural Safety Strategy.
Keywords: Rural crime in South Africa; farm attacks; livestock theft; National Rural
Protection Plan; National Rural Safety Strategy.
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INTRODUCTION: RURAL CRIME IN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE
Traditionally, research and the development and building of a distinct theory of crime in rural areas
has been the ‘poor [rural] cousin’ of mainstream criminology and largely ignored or neglected.
Most often, researchers, scholars and academics have merely ‘borrowed’ from the research designs
and criminological theory bank of the research approach to crime, victimology and policing of
densely populated urban settings the cities without examining the different and unique
circumstances, not only in terms of population densities, but also in types of crime, victimisation
variations and policing responses as applicable to the rural environment.
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1. Senior Lecturer. Department of Corrections Management, School of Criminal Justice, College of Law, University
of South Africa. Email: WClack@unisa.ac.za.
2. Livestock farmer, North West Province and current Chairperson of the National Livestock Theft Prevention
Committee of the National Red Meat Producers Organisation of South Africa.
3. Research Professor. Department of Criminology & Security Science, School of Criminal Justice, College of Law,
University of South Africa. Email: aminnaar@unisa.ac.za.
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In South Africa, the term ‘rural’ is usually used to denote communities in country districts (‘die
platteland’) outside of urban or peri-urban communities, as defined by a ‘country lifestyle’ based
on agricultural activities. In other words, farming communities centred on small towns and villages
serving those rural areas that are usually sparsely populated and away from urban areas.
However, what has become obvious over the years is that rural farming communities in
South Africa are not dissimilar to urban areas in terms of experiencing various forms of crime and
violence. For example, if one looks closely at the so-called ‘farm attacks’, these most often result
in robbery, assault, physical injuries and sometimes death (murder) all categories of crime that
occur in the cities and are largely replicated in rural areas. But, where rural crime becomes more
rurally distinctive is when one looks at the nature of those crimes that occur in the farming areas
where those ‘rural’ crimes represent a distinct direct impact on farming livelihoods and rural
economies. A further example being the other primary rural crime, namely livestock theft, which
has a tremendous impact not only on commercial farmers’ livelihoods (and by association that of
farmworkers and their families), but also on the thousands of subsistence farmers in tribal authority
communal lands where the traditional ‘cattle wealth’ barter economy, inter alia for use as ‘lobola’
(marriage price usually given by a prospective groom to the bride’s family) is still of great
importance. Hence, the theft of cattle from such subsistence families has a greater impact on their
daily survival in comparison to urban city dwellers that might, or might not, be involved in the
formal and informal urban economy. Other crimes distinctive to rural areas being poaching (of all
game) and theft of plant species, especially those on the endangered species lists, and the theft of
farming equipment all of which are integral to the direct economic survival of rural dwellers.
Be that as it may, since the mid-twentieth century criminological research has been done
on various aspects of crime occurring in rural areas. As a consequence, over the years, a generic
definition for research on rural crime has been developed, namely:
Rural refers to those places with a lower population size and population density than
urban localities. Social scientists, including criminologists, presume [authors’
emphasis] that the number and density of people living in an area influence crime
rates and the kinds [authors’ emphasis again] of crimes mostly likely to occur there.
Hence, understanding similarities and differences in expressions of crime in rural and
urban places is important (Coomber, Donnermeyer, McElrath & Scott, 2014: 117).
Of course, in comparative terms, rural is defined differently in many countries. For
instance, in England, Wales and Scotland any town or village with less than 10 000 residents is
classified as being ‘rural’, i.e. non-metropolitan areas. With the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s
(in Western Europe and the US), and the concomitant rise of and population growth in cities, it
was, therefore, not surprising that criminology took on an urban-centric focus since it was
presumed by many criminologists (at the time) that: “areas with smaller and less dense populations
had less crime, and that their crime problems were [somehow] less serious” (Coomber,
Donnermeyer, McElrath & Scott, 2014: 118). As a consequence, research on rural crime problems
was limited to a few individual sociologists cum criminologists with mainstream criminologists
choosing rather to focus on the perceived ‘more serious’ urban social and crime problems
emanating from the cities of the world.
One of the first academics/researchers, albeit as a ‘sociologist’, to look at rural crime per
se was Marshall Clinard in the 1940s with his seminal study on rural criminal offenders. Clinard
found some specific characteristics associated with rural offenders, namely: their “extensive
mobility, resulting in recklessness and irresponsibility”. This perception of themselves as “mobile
persons” led to them having an “impersonal conception of the world and emancipation from their
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home communities” (in other words, they most often moved away from their home districts). This
perception, Clinard found, led a large proportion of these ‘mobile’ rural offenders to commit their
offences outside of their home communities even if only in a neighbouring district or community.
Clinard also found that two-thirds of his respondents were alone when first arrested (the ‘loner
offender’ not associated with any criminal syndicate or youth gang). Clinard also, furthermore,
established in his early rural crime study that farm offenders did not exhibit the characteristics of
a “definite criminal social type”. He ascribed this to the fact that, firstly, their criminal behaviour
did not start early on in their lives. Secondly, they exhibited scant knowledge of the more
‘professional’ urban criminal techniques and modus operandi in general. Thirdly, their criminal
activities were not their sole means of livelihood. Lastly, that they did not conceive of themselves
as criminals, since most of the crime they committed fell under property-related offences (Clinard,
1944: 38-45) (for example: stealing fruit or vegetables, poaching of game or stealing livestock
the latter two often for the ‘pot’).
While Clinard applied classical Offender Profile theories to his seminal study, his research
did point to some very important differences in a rural offender profile versus criminals in urban
settings. But, overall criminologists, when studying crime in rural areas, continued for many years
to apply theories of crime and research based on the ‘urban model of social organisation’ to rural
settings on the assumption that these theories provided the opportunity to understand those rural
settings better, and to use them to account for, explain and categorise rural crime, victimisation
patterns, local policing responses and the application of justice as occurring in rural areas (see
Weisheit & Wells, 1996, for more detail on this approach).
In more recent times researchers have taken to customising Victims of Crime Surveys to
rural settings by changing crime types, as well as trying to establish the specific impact (social,
economic and otherwise) on self-contained localised rural communities of their specific
experiences of crime. Since such communities are often close-knit, if the crime is perpetrated by
‘insiders’ as opposed to ‘outsiders’, i.e. coming from elsewhere other than the immediate
district/community area, such insider-perpetrated crime often impacts negatively for many years
thereafter on rural person-to-person, family-to-family and overall community trust relations.
Another interesting approach to researching crime in rural areas was the 2003 study by
Mark Berg and Martin DeLisi on formerly incarcerated rural crime offenders. The researchers
starting premise again being that the “criminal career paradigm had essentially ignored
investigating offenders in rural areas” and posed the research question: ‘Do career criminals exist
in rural America?’ To fill this void, Berg and DeLisi set about undertaking a survey of 331 former
adult correctional offenders identified as having committed crime(s) in rural communities (in a
mid-western state of the US). In their study, both the self-report and official records had indicated
that rural criminal careers were characterised inter alia by: i) relatively few arrests (in an
individual’s crime career); ii) short-lived criminal justice system involvements (i.e. incarceration
had generally been for shorter periods/sentences or alternately were converted to a fine not
imprisonment); and iii) little or no evidence of involvement in violent crime (i.e. overall rural
crime can be termed of ‘lesser’ seriousness falling largely in the category of ‘petty’ theft and/or
property-related crimes). Berg and DeLisi also found that the top ten percent of their sample
strongly indicated that their crime(s) were largely driven by overlapping problems, such as
alcoholism, substance abuse, mental health difficulties, early onset of antisocial behaviour, and
low levels of educational qualifications (often being school dropouts). To cap these inter-linked
problems, most exhibited frequent involvement (constant in and out) with the criminal justice
system. Similarly then to most rural communities that have historically been characterised by
exceedingly low crime rates, rural career offenders tended to be relatively ‘harmless’ criminals
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especially when compared to habitual offenders from urban areas commonly found in the
criminological literature (see Berg & DeLisi, 2003: 317-325).
In 2004 Wells and Weisheit refocused their rural crime research and drew on community
policing, crime mapping and the recent attention in urban settings being given to theories of social
disorganisation, in an effort to better understand the social and environmental context within which
crime (in rural areas) occurs. In their study they made use of the national US county-level data set
in order to examine whether variables commonly used to predict urban crime patterns could well
be applied similarly to more rural settings. The results showed that, although ecological and
structural factors did a good job of predicting urban patterns of crime, they were less predictive of
crime rates in the more rural areas of the US. Furthermore, they also found that the ‘basket’ of
variables that best predicted urban crime rates were not identical to the set that best predicted rural
crime rates (see Wells & Weisheit, 2004:1-22).
Another 2004 study (this time extending research on rural crime outside of the USA to
Australia) was that of Patrick Jobes, Elaine Barclay, Herb Weinand and Joseph Donnermeyer, who
analysed rural community structural measures (demographic, economic and social as reported in
the various Australian censuses) in New South Wales, Australia and then compared this data with
the officially reported crime statistics for these so-called rural local government areas (LGAs).
This study used the Social Disorganisation Theory to examine variations in crime rates between
different kinds of rural communities. They also developed a rural community typology listing six
distinct types, which all exhibited unique crime characteristics with the structural measures being
statistically associated with four types of crime. A further research finding of their study being that
generally there was less crime (lower rate) in the rural areas studied than in Australian urban
centres. Furthermore, that those rural communities showing greater cohesion and integration of
their community structures had even less crime than those rural communities exhibiting poorer co-
ordination of social structures. In other words, a highly disorganised rural community would have
higher or the highest (relatively speaking to other LGAs) levels of reported crime. Clearly the
levels and effectiveness of community and structural responses impacted directly on rural levels
of crime being experienced by individual rural communities (Jobes, Barclay, Weinand &
Donnermeyer, 2004: 114-140).
Despite this growing interest in rural crime, it remains an under-studied issue being served
by a relatively small band of researchers and academics. Research on rural social disorganisation
and crime ultimately being limited by a number of factors (in contrast to research on crime rates
in urban areas), namely: inconsistent results; reliance on official crime statistics (i.e. the lack of no
standard customising of victims of crime surveys for rural areas and applying all variables directly
to rural victimisation rates. Neither disaggregating national crime statistics by pulling out crime
stats only for rural areas or establishing specific crime categories to cater for the distinctiveness of
rural crime); and the non-application in rural areas of the full Social Disorganisation and Crime
Model, as developed and largely applied to urban cities (see Kaylen & Pridemore, 2013: for their
application of the full model to rural areas in the UK using the British Crime Survey data).
One interesting recent study in 2012 by Matthew Giblin, George Burruss, Nicholas Corsaro
and Joseph Schafer has taken a slightly different research approach to rural crime by examining
rural crime victimisation and the determinants of self-protective behaviours in a sample of rural
residents in the US. They used a modified Risk Interpretation Model with categories on risk, fear
and victimisation experiences to establish a set of ‘predictors’. Their research results indicated that
household protective behaviours (including the levels of collective efficacy of implemented
household and community safety and security measures) were directly influenced by perceptions
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and exposure of each household to risks and crime victimisation (Giblin, Burruss, Corsaro &
Schafer, 2013: 493-517).
From this brief overview of existing rural crime research (from various international
jurisdictions) it becomes clear that in terms of research on rural crime, most criminologists have
barely ‘scratched the surface’ of rural crime information, which points to the need for more
research in countries, worldwide, on crimes perpetrated in rural areas. This is even more relevant
to the South African rural areas where there is a total dearth of scientific research-based studies.
SOUTH AFRICA AND ‘RURAL CRIME’
South African criminologists have, with few exceptions, neglected researching rural crimes in any
depth, more so than elsewhere in the world. No customised victims of (rural) crime survey has, to
the authors’ knowledge, ever been implemented in South Africa outside of the urban areas.
In terms of rural crime per se in South Africa the two primary crime categories that have had
the greatest social, economic, physical and political impact are, namely:
1. So-called ‘farm attacks’ on farmers, farmworkers and their families often resulting in death
and serious injury besides suffering from theft, robbery and other violent acts against them;
and
2. Livestock theft per se wherein owners/farmers are the primary victims with ancillary impact
on farmworkers in terms of loss of farmer income resulting in loss of farm jobs for workers,
and negative impact on production of farm products for sale.
It needs to be mentioned here that, besides the above two broad categories of rural crime,
there is a third category that in the last two decades has become a further burgeoning rural crime
category, namely: poaching of and trafficking in wildlife (as a sub-category of conservation crime).
But, this third category of rural crime, for the purposes of this article, is not discussed in any further
detail at all. In this article the authors will try to give a brief crime overview of the situation in
rural South Africa pertaining to these two broad crime categories.
South African context
The total population of South Africa (according to the latest mid-year 2017 population estimate by
Statistics South Africa) is set at approximately 56,5 million, of which those living in small towns
and rural areas is an estimated 30 percent of this total (Statistics African Statistics (StatsSA),
2017a: 1), whereas the six main urban centres (Greater Johannesburg: 7.86m; Cape Town: 3.74m;
Durban: 3.44m; Germiston-Ekurhuleni: 3.17m; Pretoria: 2.92m; and Port Elizabeth: 1.3m)
constitute 40 percent of this total (22.16 million) (World Atlas, 2017: np).
In the South African context, the agricultural sector is made up of two distinct categories
of farmers, namely: subsistence farmers in the former homeland/tribal areas, and large-scale
commercial farmers. However, the number of commercial farmers, i.e. those farming for profit
and producing agricultural goods for sale to markets, has dropped from 66 000 in 1990 to
approximately around 32 500 in 2016 (70-80% of whom are classified as being ‘white’), but there
are another estimated 1,1 million (in 2000) engaged in subsistence or small-scale crop farming in
the various designated tribal authority communal areas (former so-called homeland territories)
largely under the control of traditional leaders (Orkin & Njobe, 2000: iii; Anon. 2016: np). Many
of them are female farmers who are in that position since males are most often away as migrants
working in the mines, in urban areas manufacturing industries or away working on commercial
farms. The problem here being that farming in communal tribal lands they do not own the land
except on a communal occupancy rights basis, which precludes them from ever obtaining
development loans using the land as collateral from commercial banks to turn their farming
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activities into a commercial-for-profit basis. Furthermore, in 2012 it was estimated by StatsSA that
638 000 people (farmers and farmworkers) were formally employed in the agricultural sector. This
figure does not then include their family members, so in fact it has been further estimated that 8.5
million people in South Africa (15% of total estimated population) are directly or indirectly
dependent upon agriculture for their employment and income (Department of Labour, 2016: 1).
FARM ATTACKS
The whole concept of a separate crime category for farm attacks and murder of largely white
farmers in the category of commercial farms has over the years become highly politicised.
However, this article is not intended to delve into these arguments and counter-arguments, but
rather attempts, as an exploratory investigation, to posit ‘farm attacks’ as a rural crime and attempts
to establish the extent of these as incidents of rural crime.
South African statutory or common law does not define a so-called ‘farm murder’ and
‘farm attack’ as a specific crime category. The concept of ‘farm attack’ is used to refer to a number
of different crimes committed against persons, specifically on farms or smallholdings (see
Bezuidenhout, 2012: 11). But, the term ‘farm murder’ is also fraught with semantic definitional
misconceptions in that a murder is a murder and using the term ‘farm’ before it simply denotes
where it occurs and possibly the victim category and not as its users appear to intend, namely: to
give it more value or weight in terms of the analysis of modus operandi, motives, target selection
purposes and level of risk to only a certain sector of the population.
Furthermore, detractors of the use of the blanket term ‘farm attacks’ point to the lack of a
similar focus when it comes to other sectors of the farming community, namely: similarly serious
cases of assault or murder of black people on the same farms some of these assaults being
perpetrated by the farm owner(s)/manager(s) themselves or even Farm Watch patrollers/security
offices of private security companies. These cases are rarely reported to the police largely because
of fear of intimidation or dismissal and/or eviction (of their whole family) from the farm where
they are employed a result many farm workers simply cannot contemplate given their precarious
economic existence (low wages and long working hours) and widespread poverty in rural areas of
South Africa.
Many of the ‘farm attack’ crimes appear to have been perpetrated because of the
opportunity presented by poor security measures on farms and/or farmhouses, the perception by
criminals that some farmers hold substantial cash in their farmhouses (to be used for the month-
end payment of worker wages or derived from the selling of produce and livestock for cash directly
off the farm) (see Mistry & Dhlamini, 2003; Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003).
Over the years, for crime analytical purposes, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has
continued to list these violent rural crimes as, and use the term, farm attacks (in a separate
database to overall crime statistics (see explanation of this below). This, unfortunately, has
reinforced the perceptions by some organisations that this type of rural crime is ‘organised’ and
‘militaristic’ in its implementation, (i.e. the use of terms such as ‘scoping and planning’ an attack
by ‘scouting’ and selecting a suitably ‘soft target’; ‘breaching (farm) perimeter; ‘penetrating’ the
farmhouse all essential militaristic context terminology) and is, therefore, not purely criminal in
nature. This has also clouded the analysis of possible solutions to the violent crime experienced on
farms in the rural areas.
Broadly, the term ‘farm attack’ has been used by various organisations to denote violent
crime against mainly white commercial farmers (including the killing (murder) of this group and
members of their families). However, it was only in the 2001/02 financial year and until 2006/07
when this practice was discontinued that the SAPS instituted a separate sub-category in the
official crime statistics released as part of their Annual Reports referring to certain crimes (using
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the blanket term farm attacks and farm murders) on farms and smallholdings (Burger, 2013:
np). This category was based on the National Operational Co-ordinating Committee (NOCOC)
of the SAPS 2001 formulation of a comprehensive definition to assist the work of the Committee
of Inquiry into Farm Attacks (Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003: 8). However, the
NOCOC definition was only much later officially adopted and inserted in the 2011 National Rural
Safety Strategy document of the SAPS that further refined the NOCOC definition of a farm attack
as being:
Acts of violence against person/s on farms and small holdings refer to acts aimed at
person/s residing on, working on or visiting farms and small holdings, whether with
the intent to murder, rape, rob or inflict bodily harm. In addition, all acts of violence
against the infrastructure and property in the rural community aimed at disrupting
legal farming activities as a commercial concern, whether the motive/s are related to
ideology, land disputes, land issues, revenge, grievances, racist concerns or
intimidation are included” (SAPS, 2011: 8).
Excluded from this definition were any cases emanating from domestic violence, abuse of
alcohol or as a result of a vaguely defined “commonplace social interaction” of persons on farms
(SAPS, 2011: 8). At a later stage the SAPS had included such crimes as intimidation, arson and
malicious damage to property as part of the definition of a farm attack (Parliamentary Monitoring
Group (PMG). 2016: np). However, in the crime codes of the SAPS Crime Administration System
(CAS) there is in fact no official crime category identified specifically as a “farm attack” or “farm
murder”. The crimes mentioned in the SAPS’ 2011 National Rural Strategy definition such as
murder, rape and assault are recorded at the police station in the district where they occur. Also
included would be ancillary crimes such as robbery, burglary (breaking-and-entry), and vehicle
hijacking. Rural police stations resident Crime Information Management Officer (if they have
one) or the Station Commander are then expected, in their monthly crime stats (CAS) reports, to
report any incidents meeting the criteria in the above definition to the Crime Information Analysis
Centre (CIAC) at SAPS head office for inclusion on a separate, stand-alone database (this was an
instruction issued in 1996 for implementation as from the beginning of 1997 by the newly
established CIAC). But, these reported crimes from rural areas are still then part of the different
crime code categories and, therefore, formed part of the overall annual national crime statistics
(Wilkinson, 2017: np).
But, such broad definitions, without distinguishing between commercial farmers,
subsistence farmers or residents on so-called ‘smallholdings’, who might not be engaged in any
agricultural pursuits as a living, complicate any attempt at applying statistical analysis to such a
broad crime category as “farm attacks” or “farm murders”, especially in comparative terms with
other sub-categories of victims (e.g. mini-bus taxi owners; alleged witches; members of emergency
services or even the police). Some of the statistical analysis, in extrapolating the risk of being
murdered as a white farmer, have only made use of the estimated figure of 32 000 commercial
farmers in the country. Such risk factor analysis on only the selected statistics pertaining to farm
attacks and resulting murders accordingly vary with some organisations only including the figures
for actual farmers killed and excluding family members, farm workers, farm worker families,
retirees and even visitors that might have been caught up and killed in a farm attack (Burger, 2013:
np) (see also Solidarity, 2012). Some statistics do not differentiate between a murder of the
occupant farmer and resident/visiting black people killed in the course of the crimes committed
during a farm attack or distinguish between a ‘farm murder’ and, for instance, the murder of a farm
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worker by a farmer themselves, i.e. not as a result of an attack on the farm. In some of the analyses,
such factors as potential domestic violence as a cause of a murder are not factored in at all (Manby,
2002: 87).
In some instances, murders in rural areas have been reported in the media as a “farm
murder”, but in fact did not occur on a farm (in accordance with the SAPS’s definition that
agricultural/farming activities should be the primary activity pursued on the property). A recent
example of such ‘misreporting’ being two murders that occurred in March 2017 on a housing estate
near Nottingham Road in KwaZulu-Natal (under the newspaper article title: More arrests in
brutal KZN farm attack murders (see Govender, 2017: np).). Such semantic and definitional
inaccuracies do not assist researchers to accurately analyse all rural crime.
To provide some sort of context to this exploratory examination of farm attacks as a
primary generator of a range of crimes occurring in rural areas we turn to a brief review of some
of the statistics that have been presented over the years by various rural farming organisations and
the official reported figures.
In April 2001 the then SAPS National Commissioner, Jackie Selebi, appointed a
Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks with the view to examine:
“…the ongoing spate of attacks on farms, which include violent criminal acts such
as murder, robbery, rape, etc. to determine the motives and factors behind these
attacks and to make recommendations on their findings” (Committee of Inquiry into
Farm Attacks, 2003: 6).
To this effect, a call for submissions from all roleplayers and individuals wanting to provide
information on all aspects of farm attacks was opened to the public. Selebi had further instructed
the appointed Committee to endeavour to present an interim report within three months (a brief
one was so submitted) and the final report by the end of that year. The Committee of Inquiry,
however, felt that this deadline was unrealistic and that to better serve the overall analysis on farm
attacks they decided, besides collecting and analysing all submissions, to evaluate all the
work/research already done or published on the topic in South Africa. In addition, the Committee
made a principled decision to conduct its own research, since much of the previous work done
was also responsible for some incorrect perceptions about farm attacks [and] Often, in their
reports, researchers relied on unsubstantiated opinions of previous researchers(Committee of
Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003: Foreword).
Until 1997, no official statistics had been kept by the SAPS specifically on farm attacks,
since rural crime was merely registered at police stations under the specific crime codes, such as
for murder, attempted murder, rape and robbery together with similar crimes as occurring in urban
areas. In 1998, the SAPS’ NOCOC had made farm attacks a so-called ‘priority crime’, similarly
to the other listed priority crimes of gang violence, taxi violence and cash-in-transit robberies. The
NOCOC definition was then accordingly used by the SAPS’ CIAC for crime stats analytical
purposes (Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003: 17).
However, the Committee of Inquiry did find that several local and national farmers’
agricultural organisations had kept their own statistics. For instance, the South African
Agricultural Union (SAAU, now AgriSA), the umbrella organisation for most commercial farmers
in South Africa, had in 1991 started collecting their own statistics on ‘farm attacks’. The
Committee, assisted by CIAC’s crime analysts had combined the SAAU’s statistics from 1991
with those in the SAPS separate rural crime database and, thereby, established that the number of
farm attacks had increased from 327 with 66 murders recorded by SAAU in 1991 to an annual
total, eleven years later in 2001, of 1 011 with 147 deaths in that year. Over this same period (1991-
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2001) there were 6 122 farm attacks and 1 254 killings (as recorded jointly by the SAAU and
SAPS) (Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003: 2). The annual farm attack stats as
collected by SAAU/AGRISA for the period 1991-1997 and as submitted to the Committee were
as follows:
Table 1: Farm attacks and farm murders recorded by SAAU/AGRISA: 1991-1997
1991*
1992
1993
1994
1996
1997
TOTALS
Farm attacks
327
365
442
442
468
470
3 065
Farm murders
66
63
84
92
109
142
677
* Note: These are annual figures January-December.
(Source: Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003: 19).
These figures were subsequently, at a much later stage, revised (see Table 2 below).
Table 2: Farm attacks and farm murders as revised by TAU/AGRISA: 1991-1997
1991*
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
TOTALS
Farm attacks
80
110
161
108
102
70
133
764
Farm murders
55
60
77
59
61
59
74
445
Note: These are annual figures January-December.
(Source: Roets, 2018: 37)
It is unclear from these revised farm attack stats (as verified by Transvaal Agricultural
Union (SA)) (TAU SA as cited in Roets, 2018: 36) why there is such a wide discrepancy in both
the recorded number of farm attacks and farm murders (as supplied by SAAU/AGRISA to the
Committee of Inquiry (as in Table 1 above). The later revised figures would appear to gainsay and
downplay the case made out to the Committee, not only of the extent and seriousness of the farm
attacks, but also the far larger number of recorded incidents initially provided.
The NOCOC and CIAC had both also submitted to the Committee of Inquiry their own
separate analysis for the years 1997-2001, which, although the Committee felt “had some defects”
(Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003: 15), were helpful to the Committee in indicating
certain trends as contained in the more detailed case information on farm attacks as reported to the
SAPS (Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003: 15 & 19). These recorded farm attack
statistics for the period 1997 to 2001 are given below in Table 3:
Table 3: Farm attacks and farm murders recorded by NOCOC & CIAC: 1997-2001
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
TOTALS*
Farm attacks
CIAC
433
769
813
906
1 011
3 932
NOCOC
835
853
894
962
3 544*
Farm murders
CIAC
84
142
144
144
147
661
NOCOC
157
138
122
124
541*
Note: Discrepancies in totals due to no NOCOC stats for 1997. But there are annual
differences to note as well.
(Source: Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003: 19-20).
At the time, the Committee of Inquiry had noted that these recorded cases of farm attacks
by the NOCOC and CIAC had differed slightly, since the NOCOC reporting system was primarily
for the operational purposes of the SAPS to respond as quickly as possible, and in some cases,
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may not have been updated at a later stage. For instance, if a victim had died much later. But, the
Committee was of the opinion that the SAPS combined databases on farm attacks was “about
90% reliable” (Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, 2003: 19).
Subsequent to 2001, the SAPS had then released (together with the national crime stats)
the CIAC’s separate collected database statistics on farm attacks and farm murders until the
2006/07 financial (where after the then National Commissioner Selebi had placed an embargo on
the release of any separate farm attack statistics and no such statistics were ever released for the
three-year period 2007 to 2009, while from 2010 to 2018 figures were publicly released by
National Commissioner Phiyega (in 2014 at the hearing on farm attacks of the South African
Human Rights Commission) and again in 2016 and 2017 by Acting Commissioner Phahlane.
Below (Table 4) are the revised, consolidated statistics as recorded by the SAPS, and are compared
to those provided by AgriSA/TAAU the latter as from 2013 together with AfriForum’s1 collected
information for the just more than twenty-year period of 1996/97 to 2017/18.
Table 4: Farm attacks and farm murders: SAPS & AGRISA/TAU/AfriForum
consolidated statistics: 1996/7-2017/18
Year
SAPS*
Farm
attacks
Farm
murders
Year**
AGRISA/TAU
Farm
attacks
Farm
murders
1996/7
433
88
1996
70
59
1997/8
490
153
1997
133
74
1998/9
827
148
1998
201
104
1999/2000
823
140
1999
133
72
2000/01
908
140
2000
181
85
2001/02
1 069
140
2001
142
80
2002/03
903
103
2002
229
119
2003/04
773
88
2003
145
89
2004/05
694
82
2004
116
115
2005/06
636
88
2005
82
55
2006/07
794
86
2006
82
46
2007/08***
2007
94
60
2008/09***
2008
184
79
2009/10***
2009
152
71
2010/11
532
80
2010
115
64
2011/12
523
56
2011
96
48
2012/13
566
59
2012
174
53
2013/14
517
57
2013
231
59
2014/15
490
60
2014
279
61
2015/16
446
49
2015
318
64
2016/17
478
66
2018
334
64
2017/18
561
47 (62)****
2017
403
84
* Note: The SAPS Crime Stats are recorded for the financial year 1 April to 31 March for each year. ** Recorded
as for calendar year 1 January-31 December. *** No SAPS Crime Stats on farm attacks released for these years.
**** There appears to be some discrepancy in this figure. The figure of 62 was provided by the SAPS in a
presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee in May 2018 (see SAPS, 2018b: np).
(Source: SAPS, 2018; AGRISA, 2018: 64; Groenewald, 2018: np; Roets, 2018: 33; 37).
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It is not clear from the quoted records of AgriSA and AfriForum2 why there is such a
discrepancy in the number of farm attacks, with the gap (lower numbers for AgriSA/TAAU and
AfriForum) only narrowing around 2015. The same trend appears to be evident with the number
of farm murders recorded, with the overall lower number and in some years higher than those
provided by the SAPS, but essentially tracking closer to the SAPS figures from 2003 onwards.
The higher number of incidents recorded by the SAPS possibly being ascribed to their collection
via the CAS from all rural police stations of all such incidents reported to them as occurring in
rural areas, and not merely on the identified commercial farmers (approximately 32 000 in number)
that might have been reported to AgriSA as an organisation representing the organised
(commercial) agriculture sector as registered with them. However, these statistics give a
reasonably accurate overview figure of the extent and incidence of both farm attacks and farm
murders for the whole of South Africa. However, if one would like to establish an average figure
for farm murders only, given the different definitional interpretations of site (farms/smallholdings)
and target population category (commercial farmers/farm workers/resident farmer and worker
families and even non-farming residents on farm properties especially small holdings such as
retirees all excluding subsistence farmers and their families), then for the twenty-two-year period
of 1996-2017 one can posit an approximate averaged-out figure of 60 farm murders per year. In
any crime terms internationally, that is of significant analytical import, even given the high figures
for the total number of murders in South Africa over the same period (approximately 20 000
murders annually for the period 1997 to 2006 and just over an average of 17 000 per year for the
second ten-year period of 2007 to 2016) (See SAPS, 2008 & 2018a: np).
If one sets aside the emotive, often media-driven and contrasting views of farm murders
and farm attacks, over the years there have been several research studies looking at the issue from
a research perspective. Prior to the Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks 2003 report, a National
Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee (NICOC) report on farm attacks held that 99 percent of the
attacks on farms and smallholdings were motivated primarily by robbery, but also often resulted
in the crimes of murder, assault and rape (Britz & Seyesi, 1998: 18). In the research undertaken by
Mistry and Dhlamini in 2001 and the 2003 Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, both had tried
to delve deeper into motives behind the farm attacks. In 2000/01 Mistry and Dhlamini3 had
interviewed 48 offenders that had committed crimes during a ‘farm attack’ between the period
January 1997 and February 1998, and who were at the time of the interviews serving prison
sentences (Mistry & Dlamini, 2001: v).4 The primary finding of the Mistry and Dhlamini study
being that robbery was the motive in 90 per cent of the cases examined with a third of the
respondents also having previously committed similar farm attacks. Furthermore, that most of the
attacks were well planned, with the attackers spending between three to seven days on the farms
studying the movements of the occupants before the attack. The offenders also reported that in the
robbery-motivated attacks the victims were injured or killed if they were uncooperative, retaliated
or could identify the offenders. It was also revealed that younger offenders tended to be more
anxious (inexperienced) and sometimes had panicked during the attacks, which also contributed
to the victims being injured or killed. It was also found that the farm attacks especially those
resulting in a death had been accompanied by high levels of violence by means of either a shooting,
stabbing, burning and assault of the victims. However, 50 percent of the respondents had said that
the violence could have been avoided if the victims had co-operated or reacted quicker to their
instructions (to tell them where their firearms were kept, money was kept or where the farm
vehicles keys were, as well as not retaliating physically against the attackers. Furthermore, that in
48 percent of the cases it was reported that they had selected the targeted farm due to information
about the availability of money and lack of security on those farms. With reference to the aspect
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of a lack of farm security in many of the cases the perpetrators reported that they knew that security
was almost non-existent on most farms and that police stations were far away. In other words, they
had assessed the risk of being caught and believed their chances of being apprehended and arrested
by the police were small. It was also mentioned that present or past employees on farms had often
told the farm attackers that the farmers on the targeted farm kept money in safes in their homes.
Only ten percent of the interviewees said they had selected the particular farm because they had a
grudge against the resident farmer (Mistry & Dhlamini, 2001: 15-20 & 37).
The Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks had also looked closely at the motives behind
farm attacks. Its research methodology included an analysis of more than 3 500 police case dockets
(of the farm attacks database of NOCOC from 1998 to 2001), interviews with incarcerated farm
murderers, as well as oral and written submissions from the public and interested organisations,
including several academics. The final research findings of the Committee of Inquiry found no
evidence to support claims of the existence of a sinister, third force, politicised or criminal, that
was specifically targeting white farmers for attack. Based on the case dockets analysed, it was
found that there was a political or racial motive in only a fraction of cases. In most cases (89.3%),
the primary motive was robbery. This finding was, in line with the findings of the Mistry-Dlamini
study, which had undertaken interviews with 40 incarcerated convicted persons of ‘farm’ murders
and robberies. Furthermore, intimidation featured in seven percent of the cases, while those with
a political or racial motive was found in only two percent of cases and labour-related issues
featuring in 1.6 percent of cases. The Committee of Inquiry also interviewed fifty investigating
officers with follow-up telephonic interviews with a further thirty-six investigating officers dealing
with specific cases of farm attacks. All the investigating officers interviewed felt that that the
primary motive in most cases they had investigated was robbery with, in their view, very few being
politically or racially motivated farm attacks. Similarly, the fifteen state advocates from the offices
of the Directorate of Public Prosecution interviewed held the same view (Committee of Inquiry
into Farm Attacks, 2003: 411).
The Committee of Inquiry’s findings, and those of the 2001 study by Mistry and Dhlamini,
corroborate those of the SAPS’ CIAC reports on farm attacks, who for years have maintained that
many of the characteristics of farm attacks correspond with those of so-called house robberies5
in urban areas. In both farm attacks and urban home invasions, criminals will not hesitate to use
torture to extract information from their victims (for more detail on urban house robberies see
Zinn, 2008 & 2010). The big difference, given the remoteness of farms, is that attackers on farms
have much more time and are less at risk of being caught in the act by either the police, private
security companies or neighbours. The aspect of rural ‘remoteness’ has been a significant factor
in the higher levels of violence associated with farm attacks in general as opposed to other forms
of robbery, e.g. cash-in-transit heists and vehicle hijackings (Burger, 2013: np).
Robbery as a motive was a logical outcome and both the Mistry-Dlamini 2001 study and
the Committee of Inquiry report, which highlighted that this was because of the generally lax
security measures on farms (soft target), providing the opportunity for the crime, perpetrator’s
assumptions that farmers would have cash on hand for payment of wages, especially if they were
conducting other business from farmhouse premises, such as selling milk, cheese, small livestock
(sheep, pigs, chickens or goats), fruit and vegetables, etc., as well as going after the firearms that
many farmers owned (Mistry & Dhlamini, 2001: 5 & 16; Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks,
2003: 415).
Similar to the 2001-2003 Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, the South African
Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) had in 2003 also held their own Inquiry into Human rights
Violations in Farming Communities. The SAHRC 2003 Inquiry had found that, according to their
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final report: “…all forms of violence and crime perpetrated against members of the [farming]
communities constitute a violation of human rights [that should be] abhorred and strongly
condemned” and that levels of violent crime continued to escalate against both farm dwellers and
farm owners and are unacceptable. Furthermore, that the culture of violence in farming
communities operates in an environment of criminal impunity. In addition, the 2003 SAHRC
Inquiry found that the levels of service delivery of the SAPS were poor and ineffective, and that
as a consequence, criminal acts were under reported. Overall, the SAHRC had found in 2003 that
there was a lack of agreement amongst stakeholders as to the root causes leading to violence in
farming communities. (South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), 2003: 187-189).
Five years after the 2003 SAHRC Inquiry report the SAHRC did a follow up on their
previous inquiry of 2003, but which was more focused on the issue of land tenure security, farm
safety, and labour relations in farming communities and not on farm attacks per se. However, the
SAHRC 2008 inquiry report did find that, in relation to farm attacks: The underlying cause of
‘farm attacks’ was predominantly attributed to criminal motive; the use of the terminology around
‘farm killings’ was stereotypical and divisive in that it served to suggest that farm owners who
were victims of crime were more important than other victims of these murders; and that it did not
include many of the other forms of violence (e.g. violence against women, domestic violence,
abuse and assault of women and children) that were prevalent in farming communities. (South
African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), 2003: 2008: 10, 20, 51-52, 56).
Just over ten years after the release of the extensive Committee of Enquiry into Farm
Attacks report, and their own 2003 inquiry report, and five years after their 2008 report, the
SAHRC, again after receiving a large number of complaints about human rights abuses in farming
communities, had established a national investigative hearing into ‘safety and security challenges
in farming communities’. The public hearings were hosted in September and October 2014, with
the final report submitted to Cabinet in August 2015 with it being publicly released in November
of that year (South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), 2015: 9).
Similarly to the 2001-2003 Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, the SAHRC 2014
hearings had received submissions from various government departments, farming interest groups,
and unions. Many of the submissions from farming organisations focused on the following issues;
continued obstacles/problems being encountered by rural residents around the inadequate levels
of service delivery by police in farming communities; their dissatisfaction with the terminology
used to describe acts of violence on farms; farm owners again pushed for the government and the
police to keep separate statistics on the prevalence of ‘farm attacks and/or murders’ (this within
the context of the non-release of such separate crime stats since the 2009/10 reporting year; and
the request by farm owners that ‘farm attacks and/or murders’ should again be listed by the SAPS
as a national priority crime this within the stated unacceptable high levels of violence and crime
experienced by the farming community” (South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC),
2016: 9).
Among the primary recommendations made by the SAHRC 2015 report were that the:
“…SAPS and the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] step up their involvement in combating
the crimes against farming communities”, as well as recommending that farming communities be
classified as: “…a vulnerable group” within South African society. In relation to actual farm
security, a further recommendation being that Farm Watches should be incorporated into the local
Community Police Forum (CPF) structures (SAHRC, 2015: 9). Many of the SAHRC 2003, 2008
and 2014 hearings findings had resonated with the submissions and findings of the 2003
Committee of Inquiry and reveal perceptions and resentments at the lack of adequate and effective
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policing of rural areas and farming communities (see later section on rural safety that further
examines these farm attacks).
Besides farm attacks (and the accompanying violent crime in those attacks) as a primary
rural crime, rural residents and farming communities as a whole are subjected, as primary victims,
to the crime of the theft of livestock.
LIVESTOCK THEFT IN SOUTH AFRICA
The economic impact of stock theft on organised agriculture is huge. In South Africa, livestock
theft is the only crime committed on farms, which is indicated separately in the national crime
statistics. It was also declared a priority crime in the 2011 National Rural Safety Strategy of the
SAPS (SAPS, 2011: 1 & 29).
Number of livestock stolen
In Figure 1 below, all the livestock theft cases as per the definition in the Stock Theft Act 57 of
1959 have been included, since livestock theft cases reported to the SAPS do not specify the type
of livestock stolen. Determining the extent of livestock theft purely on the basis of the number of
cases reported is problematic, since there are other variables that also need to be considered. In
certain regions more poultry, donkeys and horses are stolen, with these being defined as livestock
by the National Livestock Theft Prevention Forum (NSTPF) (Clack, 2018: 5).
Figure 1: Number of livestock reported as stolen: 1995/96-2017/18
(Source: SAPS, 2018c: np).
0
50000
100000
150000
200000
250000
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It is apparent from Figure 1 that since 2013/14 there has been a gradual rise in the number
of livestock units stolen, irrespective of the type of animal, reaching, in farming terms,
unacceptably high figures. From Figure 1 can be discerned that, on average, for the last 20 years
between 150 000 to 200 000 livestock are stolen in South Africa every year.
Number of stocktheft cases
Table 5 below indicates the actual number of livestock theft cases reported to the SAPS for the
period 2005 to 2017.
Table 5: Number of stocktheft cases as per SAPS Crime stats: 2005/6-2017/18
Year
No of cases reported
2005/6
26 526
2006/7
26 155
2007/8
26 053
2008/9
27 255
2009/10
29 428
2010/11
26 942
2011/12
27 611
2012/13
26 465
2013/14
24 534
2014/15
24 965
2015/16
24 715
2016/17
26 902
2017/18
28 849
(Source: SAPS, 2018c: np).
While the data provided in Figure 1 establishes that declines occurred in certain years these
declines, but also the increases, follow a similar pattern for most other serious crimes in South
Africa. The reason for the increases and decreases is not known since there are a variety of
variables that may or may not play a role. However, declines and increases can broadly be ascribed
to many different factors, inter alia institution of rural CPFs, rollout of the National Rural Safety
Strategy, community and sector policing, etc. Other factors that also need to be taken into account
in this context, such as an improvement in the number of cases reported, the modus operandi of
the offenders that may over time have changed or livestock organised crime syndicates becoming
more involved in cattle theft (See Clack, 2013). The fact that it is lucrative to steal livestock should
be borne in mind since livestock does not lose value similarly to that of other commodities, which
has been experienced since the economic crisis starting in 2008. While livestock does have price
variations due to seasonal changes, age, physical condition, a ready illegal market, etc., its value
does not automatically decrease upon theft such as a stolen car or cell phone that loses more than
50 percent of their value when sold in the illegal markets.
However, overall livestock theft declines have been ascribed to the establishment in June
1995 of the National Stock Theft Forum (NSTF) and the involvement, active role and the joint
efforts of all the role player members of the NSTF all being credited with playing a significant
role in reducing livestock theft in South Africa since 1995 (Clack, 2016:4). However, the 2017/18
figure of 28 849 reported cases of livestock was a new five-year high, almost reaching the 15-year
highpoint of 29 428 reached in the 2009/10 reporting year.
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Number of cattle, sheep and goats stolen
Figure 2 below shows the number of cattle, sheep and goats stolen by year for the years 2013/14
to 2017/18. These figures, unlike those in Figure 1, relate only to cattle, sheep and goats (as the
primary livestock stolen in the crime of stocktheft). Other animals, as per the legal definition, have
been excluded.
Figure 2: Cattle, sheep and goats stolen: 2013/14-2017/18
(Clack, 2018: 8)
The highest numbers of stolen livestock are represented by the ‘sheepcategory. A good
reason for this being that they are more easily herded, smaller and have far higher numbers being
farmed in the country than either cattle or goats. Overall, an annual average of all three categories
stolen is approximately 170 000 (2013/14) increasing to just over 200 000 in 2017/18.
Proportion of livestock theft to other crimes
Table 6 below provides the comparison in terms of livestock theft as a percentage of the total
annual number of reported cases of serious crime cases for the period 2009/10 to 2017/18.
Table 6: Livestock theft in relation to other crimes in South Africa
Year
Number of serious
crimes reported
Livestock theft cases
Livestock theft cases
as a percentage of all
serious crimes
2009/2010
2 121 887
32 380
1.52%
2010/2011
2 071 487
30 144
1.45%
2011/2012
2 016 316
30 949
1.53%
2012/2013
2 281 704
29 894
1.31%
2013/2014
2 338 154
28 026
1.20%
2014/2015
2 206 505
24 965
1.13%
2015/16
2 249 701
24 715
1.11%
2016/17
2 208 256
26 902
1.22%
2017/18
2 100 928
28 849
1.38%
(Sources: SAPS, 2018c: np).
0
10000
20000
30000
40000
50000
60000
70000
80000
90000
100000
13/14 14/15 15/16 16/17 17/18
Cattle stolen Sheep stolen Goats stolen
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However, of significance to farmers is the fourth column: livestock theft cases as a
percentage of all serious crimes, since this figure determines the number of detectives assigned for
duty at livestock theft units. Accordingly, since 2009/10 there has occurred an annual reduction of
detectives assigned to rural area stocktheft investigation units. This factor has further exacerbated,
in the eyes of farmers, the perceived general neglect by the SAPS in attending to rural crime.
While livestock theft would appear to make up only a small percentage (fraction) of overall
serious crime cases, this does not indicate the critical impact on farming communities, not only in
crime terms, but also in terms of economic negative impacts and for future food security.
Interestingly, in the latest Victims of Crime Survey undertaken by StatsSA it was reported that the
most common crime experienced in 2016/17 was housebreaking or burglary (53%) followed by
theft of livestock (11%) and home robbery (10%) (StatsSA, 2017b: 1 & 10).
Compared internationally in terms of rural crimes versus overall crime, it would appear
that South Africa has a larger percentage of other crimes compared to livestock theft. For instance,
livestock theft in other countries forms a larger part of the overall crimes that influence the
community. Examples of this in Africa being in: Rwanda: 5.3 percent; Tanzania: 15.3 percent; and
Kenya: 12.9 percent (for more detail on rural crime in Kenya see: Bunei & Barasa, 2017). In
countries such as Australia (see Barclay, Donnermeyer, Scott & Hogg, 2007) and Cambodia (Hunt,
2004: np) livestock theft in fact comprises the highest total number crimes committed on farms
(Clack, 2016: 3).
Claims that livestock theft is not of much significance, based simply on numbers, can have
serious implications, since the economic impact and use of livestock in rural areas are not then
being correctly assessed. Livestock serves a multi-purpose within communal and commercial
systems of farming. Although the systems are comparable, the uses and economic impact of
livestock vary considerably across countries and across regions in a country (see Shackleton,
Shackleton, Netshiluvhi & Mathabela, 2005: 127; Jarvis, 1988: 59).
Value of all livestock stolen, recovered and resulting financial loss
Table 7 indicates values in Rands of stolen and recovered livestock for the years 201/11 to 2017/18
and also indicates the loss differential between the two.
Table 7: Value6 of all livestock stolen, recovered and resulting financial loss: 2010/11-
2017/2018
Year
Stolen
Recovered
Loss
2007/08
R507 956 400
R192 641 600
R315 314 800
2008/09
R547 955 600
R210 710 500
R337 245 100
2009/10
R619 510 800
R224 890 800
R394 620 000
2010/11
R655 814 600
R250 884 300
R404 930 300
2011/12
R830 906 600
R344 271 900
R486 634 700
2012/13
R757 155 750
R282 034 950
R475 120 800
2013/14
R788 536 200
R277 475 800
R511 060 400
2014/15
R819 045 200
R301 452 200
R517 593 000
2015/16
R 877 381 700
R309 211 200
R568 170 500
2016/17
R1 058 806 200
R324 285 400
R734 520 800
2017/18
R1 222 352 592
R344 104 296
R878 248 296
(Source: SAPS Stock Theft Unit Head Office Ops, 2007-2017, as cited in Clack, 2013: 87; 2018:
12)
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As can be discerned from Table 7, the value of this stolen livestock rose from
approximately R508 million (about USD$35 million at current exchange rate) in 2007/08 to just
over R831 million in 2011/12 to more than R1.2 billion (approximately USD$87 million) in 2017.
Non-reporting of cases of livestock theft
However, in South Africa, it is a trait that a large number of economic crimes are never reported
to the authorities and livestock theft is no exception to this fact. Statistics South Africa reported in
2011 in their annual Victims of Crime Survey that only 40.1 percent of the victims of livestock
theft had reported their livestock theft case to the police. In other words, there was an under-
reporting of almost 60 percent of livestock theft by victims. In 2014 the non-reporting statistic for
livestock rose to 64.4 percent with another increase to an all-time non-reporting high in 2015 of
70.7 percent (Stats SA, 2012: 3, 39; 2015: 56; 2016: 65).
The non-reporting of stock theft cases by livestock owners can be attributed to various
reasons. Firstly, 31.8 percent of livestock theft cases are not reported due to a lack of trust in the
capability of the SAPS to recover the stolen stock and/or to prosecute the case successfully. This
perception by livestock owners is perfectly understandable if one considers the fact that only four
percent of victims are informed that an arrest has been made or that stolen livestock has been
recovered (Singh, 2005: 43). Secondly, 30.2 percent of livestock owners believe that it is not an
important enough crime to report to the authorities. This may be true of small livestock, such as
chickens, but not of larger livestock with a high monetary value, such as cattle. Thirdly, 11.8
percent of the victims of livestock theft use other methods to resolve the crimes, such as to report
it to local authorities or neighbourhood/farm watches. In poorer rural communities, this has a high
prevalence as there is still a high sense of community justice. Fourthly, in 8.8 percent of the cases
the SAPS was not available or reachable to report the theft of livestock (Singh, 2005: 43; Burton,
Du Plessis, Leggett, Louw, Mistry & Van Vuuren, 2004: 4; StatsSA, 2012: 53).
Another reason why commercial farmers do not report livestock theft cases is, firstly due
to the fact that livestock in South Africa, with the exception of some stud breeders, is not insured.
Insurance companies either do not provide this type of insurance, or if they do provide it, it is very
expensive. The insurance of livestock is not within the scope of this article. However, to understand
the extent of the number of livestock theft cases compared to other property-related crimes, it must
be taken note of that, for instance, house insurance, is widespread, particularly in urban areas. In
the case of most other property-related crimes, the commodity itself is insured. Accordingly, in
order for the victim to press a claim for damages the case must be reported to the SAPS, which is
not the case with livestock theft that is not insured. As a result, there is no reimbursement-of-loss
incentive for them to report livestock theft to the SAPS ‘for insurance purposes’. Hence, the low
levels of reporting of livestock theft to the SAPS.
Moreover, there is the fear of fines being imposed on victims of livestock theft, due to the
fact that their animals have not been marked in accordance with the requirements of section 7 of
the Animal Identification Act No 6 of 2002 (Anon, 2008a: 13; Department of Agriculture, 2008:
2). Livestock owners are also aware of the fact that it is problematic to prove ownership of
unmarked/non-branded animals stolen and, therefore, the associated difficulties in reclaiming their
stolen livestock (if recovered by the police).
Producers also fail to report thefts because they are unsure of exactly how many livestock
are missing. Some believe it is a waste of time reporting crimes because a theft would be
impossible to prove, or because of the time lag between the occurrence of the theft and its detection
(i.e. becoming aware that stolen livestock is missing).
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Changes in modus operandi of livestock theft
In earlier years, livestock was predominantly stolen for survival or “potslagting[slaughter for the
pot], but from the mid-2000s a change in the modus operandi was observed with a movement to
the more lucrative larger-scale operations of organised crime syndicates. For many years, in South
Africa, stealing largely for the pot has been an ongoing, but largely accepted livestock theft
problem. But, after the world economic crisis starting in 2008, the emergence of more ‘organised’
groups that latched onto stock theft as a way of quickly enriching themselves became more evident
(Goede, 2012: 1; Gouws, 2012:np; Anon, 2008b: 11; Anon, 2008a: 6 & 8; Clack, 2013: 82 & 88;
Doorewaard, Hesselink & Clack, 2015: 38).
This organised livestock theft has evidenced in a modus operandi involving the rounding
up of whole herds of livestock from targeted farms, usually at night; their transport by big livestock
pantechnicon type truck-and-trailers with the quick delivery to participating abattoirs resulting in
the ‘disappearance’ of stolen livestock as evidence in many cases. The ratio of livestock stolen per
case further substantiates the assumption of crime syndicates, since the ratio increased from 4.02
livestock stolen per case in 2002/2003 to 7.44 livestock stolen per case in 2014/2015 (Clack, 2016:
8). From the above data and tables, it is clear that, in rural economic terms, livestock theft in
South Africa has a considerable negative impact on agriculture and farming activities and
represents a considerable loss to all farmers, whether commercial or subsistence.
In dealing with livestock theft as a rural crime, the policing thereof has largely been outside
of the framework of CPFs, community and/or sector policing. The earliest efforts post-1994 of
trying to deal with livestock theft in a more organised policing manner occurred on 1 December
1995, when all concerned role-players in the area of livestock theft attended a meeting in Pretoria
hosted by the then Minister of Safety and Security, Sydney Mufamadi. The outcome of the meeting
was the establishment of the National Livestock Theft Prevention Forum (NSTPF), to be
administered by the Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO). Subsequently a National Instruction,
National Instruction 2/1999, was drafted and approved by the SAPS to describe the processes of
stock theft investigations and the establishment of the NSTPF, Provincial Stock Theft Prevention
Forums and Stock Theft Information Centres (Anon., 1999a: np; Anon., 1999b: 10-13, as cited in
Clack, 2018: 3). However, livestock farmers raised concerns that this National Instruction
appeared to be superseded by the more general approach of the Rural Safety Plans from 2000
onwards, which were designed to address all crime in rural areas in a holistic way.
Below is a discussion of the efforts to provide formal mechanisms to address not only farm
attacks and livestock theft, but all forms of rural crime and violence.
RURAL SAFETY AND SECURITY
The constraints of crime prevention in rural areas are mostly generic the world over in terms of
difficult terrain, private farms that might refuse entry equally to strangers, the police and security
officers, inaccessible areas, poor roads, erratic communication services, long distances and isolated
areas and no electricity. Simply put, the absence of infrastructure in rural areas makes conducting
investigations challenging there are no roads and lights!
In South Africa, rural areas are also underdeveloped and large areas particularly, again, the
traditional tribal land areas, are poverty stricken and under resourced, both in an infrastructural
and service delivery sense.
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The Rural Protection Plan
After 1994, white farmers, previously adequately protected by the formal commando (military)
system in rural areas, found that they were increasingly becoming the target of attacks (for various
reasons). With the disbandment (announced in 2003) of the commando system, these feelings of
insecurity were exacerbated by a seemingly exponential increase in all forms of criminal incidents
in rural and farming areas. In some areas/districts, local initiatives to combat rural crime were
launched, notably in the Limpopo Province (the former Northern Province), as early as the second
half of 1996. These led, in some instances, to regular bi-monthly meetings, to discuss violent crime
on farms and smallholdings, being held among the relevant roleplayers (police, army, agricultural
unions and the departments of Justice, Correctional Services and Home Affairs).
This resulted in the establishment, by then President, Nelson Mandela, of a Presidential
Security Force Task Team (with reference to rural crime), which, after consultation with a variety
of interested parties, led in October 1997, to the government implementing a so-called ‘Rural
Protection Plan’. Later, in October 1998, this implementation led to the holding of a Rural Safety
Summit. The aim of the summit was to bring all role-players together to find a common strategy
to step up the fight against crime, especially violent crime in all farming communities.” (Mandela,
1988: np). The summit adopted a set of resolutions condemning criminal activity affecting rural
communities. However, it also recognised that the so-called ‘rural crime’ had many complex root
causes. Nonetheless, the summit delegates accepted that the newly formulated Rural Protection
Plan should form the foundation and serve as the “operational strategy to combat and prevent
violent crimes against farming and rural communities". Allied to this acceptance was the further
recommendation that a formal and comprehensive policy framework be developed in
consultation with all role-players in order to ensure the long-term safety in rural and farming
communities (Schönteich & Steinberg, 2000: 19, 23).
This Plan, while structured primarily around the commando system, aimed at utilising all
the relevant structures countrywide that co-ordinated the activities of state agencies, such as the
SAPS and SANDF, but with the proviso of pulling in and obtaining the co-operation of organised
agriculture bodies such as the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) and Agri-SA. However, these
structures were controlled by the state agencies involved in a formal committee structure cascading
down from the national and provincial area to ground level (local) Operational Co-ordinating
Committees (OCCs) the being latter chaired by the local police station commander (Schönteich
& Steinberg, 2000: 24-25).
The summit established a Rural Safety Task Team comprising the groups that had
participated, but it proved largely ineffective, and in February 2000, after representatives of Agri-
SA had met with then President, Thabo Mbeki, it was re-activated, but would, as the OCCs did,
function within, rather than outside of the police structures (SAPA, 2000a: np).
The Rural Protection Plan had stipulated that the SAPS were, on a regular basis, to visit
commercial farms in each rural policing district. But, severe resource constraints (human resource
shortages and lack of functioning vehicles a significant problem in most rural police stations)
meant that, in practice, this happened irregularly, if at all. In some rural police stations, it was
found that the station commissioner would have upwards of 100 farms as part of the district police
responsibilities but could only spare no more than two police officers to fulfil these protection
visits. It was also reported that while the police provided visited farmers with advice on safety and
security measures, often the farmers preferred to “make their own [security] plans” independent
of the police or military (see Manby, 2001: 35-43).
In the assessment research of the Rural Protection Plan, undertaken in 1998/99 by
Schönteich and Steinberg (2000), it was found that there were several problems and shortcomings
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being encountered in its operational implementation. One of these being the lack of, or reluctance
by, farm workers to participate. Sometimes, the local structures deliberately excluded any
participation, even if volunteered, by the predominantly black farm workers (or members of their
families resident on white-owned farms). Compounding this was the widespread apathy by
members of the public to get involved in any security structures, such as the police’s reservist or
the commando system (Schönteich & Steinberg, 2000: 50; 80).
There were also problems experienced in terms of ineffective (or absence of) intelligence
gathering, detecting and investigation by the police with reference to the more serious forms of
rural crime. Schönteich and Steinberg (2000) further reported that a number of senior provincial
police officials had openly acknowledged that suspects in farm attacks, if not apprehended by
civilians soon after the farm attack, were seldom apprehended, if at all, by the police themselves.
Most rural area police stations doing little in terms of gathering intelligence information on rural
crime from rural settlements. As a result, station-level intelligence produced little of value with
reference to developing rural crime offender profiles. Such information would no doubt have
proven useful for reactive police work and investigation. This police shortcoming being further
compounded by detectives doing very little follow-up work, especially outside of their policing
precinct/district (Schönteich & Steinberg, 2000: 50-53). Accordingly, “as far as reactive detection
and investigation are concerned, the SAPS is, thus, contributing little to the rural protection plan
(Schönteich & Steinberg, 2000: 51).
Such drawbacks to more effective and efficient policing were further compounded by other
weaknesses in the operational effectiveness of the SAPS, largely due to rural police stations being
woefully under resourced all over rural areas. Often, having no operational (in-working-order)
patrol vehicles, shortages of staff, the long distances to travel to crime scenes and other operational
impediments to effective rural policing (Schönteich & Steinberg, 2000: 79).
The availability of vehicles at station level remains an ongoing issue of debate between
organised agriculture and the SAPS. AgriSA, in their most recent annual rural safety report
(2017/18), stated that they still regularly receive complaints from their members that there
continues to be a shortage of or unavailability of police vehicles at rural station level, partially due
to the lengthy turnaround time for repairs and services, which have to be done at the police repair
workshops at various provincial headquarter offices (AgriSA, 2018: 61).
Moreover, these operational obstacles being impacted upon by the overall shortage of
numbers of detectives (investigators) allocated to rural areas. Those at the rural police stations are
overloaded with a whole range of different cases ranging from serious to petty crime. This being
further compounded by the shortage of experienced detectives (the tendency being to place
‘rookie’ detectives in rural areas as their first assignment with detectives who have gained
experience being transferred to urban areas where crime levels much higher). As a result, often
with more serious crimes, the local rural police stations have to rely on specialist detective support
from the larger urban centres which is often not immediately forthcoming resulting in delays in
starting investigations occurring due to their own heavy caseloads in the cities. When such serious
cases were investigated the forensic evidence samples had first to be sent to the SAPS’ Central
Forensic Laboratory in Pretoria, where further delays occurred due to backlogs in analysis.
(Schönteich & Steinberg, 2000: 81-82).
The Farmwatch System
Because of the lack of or ineffective policing in many of the outlying areas of rural districts (as
outlined above), many farmers began to organise their own protection/security system, which
became known as Farmwatch. The basis of this system was persuading small groups of
neighbouring farmers to join together in ‘security cells/groups’, that is, farmhouses in close
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proximity (relatively speaking) to one another and linked on a (citizen band) radio network (to
obviate dependence on electricity and telephone lines that could be cut in a crime attack on a farm).
In practical terms, in many farming areas, farm owners living along one road or within easy reach
of one another formed a committee, and if something untoward happened to one of them, the
closest neighbour would be radio-called to render immediate and fast assistance. Most such
Farmwatch areas depended on their optimal functioning on the support and co-operation of
resident farmworkers (who are often ancillary or secondary victims of criminal attacks on farms).
They would participate by going with farm owners to provide assistance to fellow farmers and
farmworkers under such attack. Participation also made such farmworkers feel part of the local
Farmwatch, as well as being made to feel safer and more secure in the process. Some Farmwatch
committees also held informal patrols in an effort to deter strangers entering their areas, even going
so far as to demand identification (ID) books from anyone who they felt was not supposed to be
in the area (see Manby, 2001: 40).
In August 1999, in an effort to strengthen such self-protection measures, the commercial
farmers union, Agri-SA, launched the Agri-Securitas Trust Fund with the aim of “generating funds
to protect farming communities throughout South Africa and reverse the growing trend of rural
crime”. The Commercial Farmers Union had stated that the fund would directly benefit the “85
000 commercial and small-scale farmers, their families and their workers” (SAPA, 2000b: np).
The Commando System
These initiatives were closely linked to the local (military) commando units a South African
system of army reserve units. Until the early 1990s, all white men in South Africa were required
to do compulsory national service in the defence force, and many farmers, therefore, had
undergone some form of military training, making the organisation of a military security system
at local level a relatively easy task. However, by 2000, in many areas of South Africa, the
commando units were no longer that active. Nevertheless, in early 2001, in some areas (KwaZulu-
Natal and Limpopo provinces, in particular) they were being resuscitated and re-activated.
However, this was done specifically to encourage them to perform policing duties (since the police
were still woefully understaffed). This was also in response to renewed concerns about the high
levels of violent rural crime in the commercial farming areas. Many of the farmers who became
involved in the Farmwatch initiatives were also commando members. Nevertheless, the problem
of motivation and apathy bedevilled both commando policing and Farmwatch activities in many
rural areas. Nevertheless, in the most active areas, there might well be the occurrence of several
commando/Farmwatch joint vehicle patrols at night, roadblocks once or twice a week and
checkpoints looking for illegal weapons even more frequently. There were also systematic efforts
made to obtain information about illegal weapons and stocktheft by means of a funded informer
system. In other areas, a commando unit might exist in name only. Low levels of participation
were also experienced in some of the poorly resourced and underfunded independent Farmwatch
committees (see Schönteich & Steinberg, 2000: 21-22; 77-78; Manby 2001: 41; Steinberg, 2005:
41-48).
Private security in rural areas
The inadequate or ineffective levels of rural policing led many farmers as generally many other
South Africans who could afford such services did to contract the security services of commercial
private security companies to safeguard their property and personal safety. In the early 2000s,
many small security companies sprang up in a number of rural areas and small towns. However,
like their counterparts in the cities they also had to register these companies and staff with the
Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), and also lost trained and skilled security
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officers to the better pay and working conditions in urban areas resulting in either a rapid turnover
of security personnel or their demise as ‘going’ concerns lacking the financial muscle to continue
operations.
THE RURAL PROTECTION PLAN IN PRACTICE
Farmwatch initiatives
The mix of different security systems for rural safety varies across South Africa. In wealthier areas
such as the KwaZulu-Natal coastal belt, where sugar cane is predominantly grown, and the farms
are relatively small, farmers tend to employ private security. In remote areas, where the rainfall is
low, farms are large, and the profit margins small, private security is prohibitively expensive, and
recourse to the commando system was made. In yet other areas, such as Gauteng, where commando
units tended to be less under the control of farm owners and to have more black members, white
farmers were more likely to rely more on private Farmwatch initiatives, integrated into the rural
protection plan through the ground level operational co-ordinating committees. These independent
Farmwatches were crucial in assisting the police and the commandos in policing their areas, since
without their support and presence in numbers, the police simply would not be able to cope with
the rural crime situation. Often the Farmwatch members would be the first to react and arrive at a
farm (attack) crime scene (Manby, 2001: 40).
Rural Community Police Forums
The Rural Protection Plan also set out further co-operation structures, namely with the Community
Police Forum (CPF) structures. While CPFs have had some successes in improving police-
community co-operation, especially in urban areas, overall in rural areas they have had limited
success. This apathy towards CPFs in rural areas must, however, also be seen within the unique
rural constraints of community participation in many of these structures ranging from long
distances, too frequent meetings and prioritisation of other farming matters of more concern to
farmers (e.g. lack of co-ordinated action against stock thieves).
A further drawback to application effectiveness of the Rural Protection Plan was the
reluctance of some Farmwatch committees to broaden membership and participation to include
not only local black farmworkers, but also the headmen and chiefs from adjoining tribal communal
lands. There have also been problems ensuring that there is effective co-operation between the
different rural groupings with the commandos and Farmwatch cells generally only operating in the
commercial farming areas and not attempting to engage with any tribal areas, except for the
purpose of conducting raids for illegal weapons or in ‘hot pursuit of a suspect’ (Manby 2001: 40;
Schönteich & Steinberg, 2000: 61-63).
However, where small commercial black farmers are increasing in numbers, they have on
occasion approached local commando units for assistance in countering stock theft, which affects
not only the bigger farm owners, but also labour tenants and subsistence farmers in the communal
tribal areas all also affected as stock owners/farmers by this serious rural crime. In conclusion
then, overall success and effectiveness of the Rural Protection Plan has been limited (owing to
many of the factors mentioned above).
However, rural areas had in the period 1999-2005 encountered further obstacles to the
provision of rural security and safety.
Disbandment of the commandos
The first of these was the disbandment of the commando system. This was formally announced on
10 June 2003 by the Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula, in his budget vote speech
in Parliament. He had merely stated that the commandos would be replaced by:
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…a revised SAPS reservist system based on the amended National Instruction for
Reservists. This system is linked to various initiatives that form part of the National
Crime Combating Strategy’s normalisation phase, such as the drastic increase in the
SAPS personnel figures over the next three years, the restructuring of specialised
investigation units, the implementation of sector policing and the establishment of
crime combating units for each police area (Steinberg, 2005: 1).
This replacement was planned to be phased in over the period, 2003 to 2009, and was to
be in the form of a combination of various policing approaches, namely: sector policing supported
by area crime combating units and the additional recruitment and use of police reservists (for the
purposes of sector policing, a new category of reservists was created, namely urban and rural sector
police reservists)7 and the appointment of additional police members at rural police stations
(Burger & Boshoff, 2008: 20).
While organised agriculture was, at the time, assured that in the process of the SAPS
replacing the commandos, no commando unit would be closed down (withdrawn) before the police
were able to completely take over the security responsibility in a particular area (Burger & Boshoff,
2008: 20-21), this, in reality, did not happen.
A security vacuum?
In research conducted by the Institute for Security Studies between November 2007 and December
2008, it was found that in at least four areas where they had conducted interviews, “a security
vacuum had been created” (Burger, 2012: 64). This conclusion was based primarily on the
observation that in none of these four areas had all the measures announced by government in 2003
been fully implemented. In fact, in some areas almost nothing had been done to implement security
structures to replace the commando system, irrespective of the fact that the closing down of the
local commandos had continued apace (Burger & Boshoff, 2008: 28).
The new system and the National Rural Safety Strategy (NRSS)
The disbandment of the commandos meant that the police were required to replace, not only the
‘system’, but also develop a new plan or strategy to replace the old 1998 Rural Protection Plan. In
March 2010, at the rural safety workshop hosted by Agri-SA in Pretoria, the SAPS presented their
new draft National Rural Safety Strategy. A major refocus in the new plan was that, whereas the
Rural Protection Plan had focused on the farming community, the new strategy emphasised that
future attention in combating rural crime would be the whole broad rural community in South
Africa and not only on the (commercial) farmers (SAPS, 2011: 3). The new Rural Safety Strategy,
released for implementation in July 2011, and planned for full implementation by 2015, was a tacit
acknowledgment by the government of the seriousness of the ongoing acts of violence against the
rural community, the high levels of stock theft and destruction of infrastructure. The new Rural
Safety Strategy also clearly prioritised the overall safety and security of rural communities as a
whole. Therefore, the primary aims and objectives of the strategy being to improve safety and
security within the total rural environment; to improve relationships with the farming and rural
community; to establish a system that would address crime within the rural areas; to improve
service delivery within the rural communities; and safeguard the entire rural community against
crime or any disaster. Ulitimately, this would also all positively impact on and maintain food
security. Accordingly, the new safety and security strategy for rural areas was to be based on the
following six pillars:
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1. adopting a proactive and reactive responsive operational approach;
2. enhanced co-operation and co-ordination between all role players;
3. community safety awareness;
4. rural development;
5. effective communication; and
6. effective investigation and prosecution (SAPS, 2011: 11-12; 18; 24 & 34).
The strategy also had a specific focus on the concept of ‘Sector Policing’ and the further
utilisation of police reservists. In an analysis of the new strategy, Boshoff (2010: np) mentions the
following: “It is unfortunate that the strategy is based on plans that have failed in the past, not
because of the strategy, but because of the inability of the SAPS to implement it and a lack of
resources.”
In addition, “Sector Policing often does not go any further than phase two: the identification
of the sectors. The moment phase three is implemented, namely the allocation of resources,
personnel and equipment, the strategy ends because of a lack of resources.” (Boshoff, 2010: np)
According to Boshoff (2010: np), the main challenge to ensure that the new strategy worked
was the need for two crucial capabilities, namely: house-and-hearth protection and an area-bound
dedicated reaction force (such as was provided by actively functioning local commandos).
Although the strategy mentions ‘house-and-heart’ protection (i.e. security and safety awareness
initiatives), it does not empower the farmers (or, as per the new strategy, the rural inhabitants) with
the means, knowledge and ability to protect themselves. This includes radio communication,
issuing and providing individual members of the public with firearms for self-defence (as the
commandos provided to its members), or a communication link to a dedicated reaction force.
Boshoff (2010: np), further states that the strategy also failed to address the crucial issue of setting
up a dedicated area-bound reaction unit in each local area in the rural communities.
What are the practical implications on the ground? In both rural and urban areas, the public
have tended to accept and come to terms with the fact that the police simply do not have the
capacity or the capabilities to implement, operate and resource sector policing adequately.
Communities and farmers have simply returned to funding and utilising their own available
resources in order to implement some form of community/sector policing by establishing their own
sector operational centres, voluntarily operating them (for no remuneration), and buying, installing
and equipping such radio communication capabilities (to mobile patrols, individual farms and
houses). After the 2010 rollout of sector policing nationally, owing to the lack of adequate services
in rural areas, many of them have resorted to resuscitating farm patrolling activities. Community
members were also identified and put on standby rosters to be called upon as a dedicated reaction
capability. However, these reaction/response team members have the obvious limitation of not
having powers of arrest, search and suspect detention and no peace officer powers at all (unless
appointed as such by the National Commissioner of Police) (Boshoff, 2010: np).
The government undertaking in the National Rural Safety Strategy was that the police
would replace the commandos by putting in place the following alternatives:
a revised SAPS reservist system based on an amendment of the National Instruction for
Reservists;
a substantial increase in SAPS personnel figures;
the implementation of sector policing;
the restructuring of specialised investigation units; and
the establishment of area crime combating units (Burger, 2012: 65).
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Compounding problems of not implementing policy
Sector Policing (as part of the Community Policing policy/strategy) had only formally been rolled
out countrywide in mid-2010 mainly in response to the demands for added policing capabilities
and increased security to be implemented leading up to the FIFA Soccer World Cup held in South
Africa that year. Its rollout was also largely in urban as opposed to rural areas (Minnaar, 2010:
200). The new National Rural Safety Strategy (NRSS) came into effect as from July 2011, but
its national operational non-implementation (only rolled-out in certain areas piecemeal) was
further exacerbated by the lack of policy revision. By March 2013, the revised National Instruction
on Police Reservists had not yet been finalised or sent out to all police stations countrywide for
comment (there are still delays and no finalisation of such had been done by July 2016).
Regarding the 2003 announcement (as part of the disbandment of the commandos and as a
replacement for them) that area crime combating units would be established, in effect, this merely
resulted in the renaming of the Public Order Policing (POP) units and giving them a slightly
different mandate. This ‘new’ mandate included, among their other operational duties, the
responsibility for follow-up operations after farm attacks. The POP units, tasked to manage public
events and marches, had undergone two major restructuring actions (2001 and 2006). At the time
of these restructuring actions, there had been a perceived reduction in public protests, but in the
light of the increased levels of (rural) crime, a decision had been taken that these units would be
used in support of the implementation of the National Crime Combating Strategy (NCCS)
(launched in 2000). In being renamed (in 2001) as Area Crime Combating Units (ACCUs) (and
renamed after the 2006 restructuring exercise as Crime Combating Units (CCUs), the POP units
effectively had their primary focus changed to crime prevention and combating operations in
other words, their original crowd management focus became a secondary function. In effect, this
was an expedient manner of finding a replacement for the reaction force capability of the disbanded
commandos (Burger, 2012: 66-67; Burger & Boshoff, 2008: 15). Their crime combating
capabilities were further impacted on by the reduction during this period (1999-2006) of the total
number of operational personnel from 1 383 to 614 (Omar, 2007: 25).
Further developments impacting on limiting any CCU deployment for rural protection
duties being that during 2011/12 there were on average three violent public crowd management
incidents occurring every day in South Africa. This required the CCUs to be fully deployed for
crowd management and public order operations to police the urban protest incidents (largely
service delivery protests emanating mostly from informal settlement areas and the townships)
(Burger, 2012: 67).
All these developments, including the decision to close the commandos, effectively had a
negative impact on the ability of the SAPS to police the agricultural sector and rural areas, let alone
have an effect on reducing high levels of crime in these areas. This has been evident in a further
deterioration of rural policing services by the prioritisation of combating the urban focus crimes
(the so-called ‘trio crimes’ of house robberies, vehicle hijacking and cash-in-transit heists).
RURAL SAFETY STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION: POST-2011
For the period 2011-2017, rural policing has had mixed results with constant complaints by
agricultural organisations (including AfriForum) that the police were neglecting rural areas or not
fully implementing all the six pillars of the 2011 National Rural Safety Strategy. The National
Rural Safety Strategy as approved in 2010 was planned to be fully implemented in all rural areas
by the 2015/16 financial year. But, there were constant delays due to a number of constraints within
the SAPS, ranging from financial, rural under resourcing, to changes within top management (i.e.
suspension of National Commissioner Phiyega in October 2015 and appointment of Acting
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National Commissioner Phahlane, his replacement as Acting National Commissioner by Lesetja
Mothiba in June 2017 and then finally the appointment as National Commissioner in December
2017 of Khehla Sitole all of which disrupted implementation of policies throughout the SAPS).
In 2016, as part of Acting National Commissioner Phahlane’s Back to Basics Plan, a
review of the National Rural Safety Strategy was undertaken within the overall government
realignment recommended by the National Development Plan (NDP: 2030). This involved
stakeholder engagement sessions in all nine provinces and attended by internal and external role
players. Also, as part of Phahlane’s Back to Basics Plan, rural safety, including incidents of
violence on farms and smallholdings, was prioritised.
However, in a report to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Policing on 26 August
2016 the SAPS had reported on the implementation status of the Rural Safety Strategy that
indicated that out of a total of 1 140 police stations countrywide, 479 police stations were based in
rural areas and 405 in a rural/urban mix. Of these, a total of 794 had fully implemented the
requirements as per the four pillars of: i) enhanced service delivery; ii) integrated approach, iii)
community safety awareness; and iv) rural development; with 81 having partial implementation
and only nine reporting that there had been no implementation at all (Parliamentary Monitoring
Group, 2016: np).
The implementation status report was based on a set of criteria questions posed to each
Station Commissioner, namely whether the following had been implemented:
i. Has a Provincial and Cluster Rural Safety Priority Committee been established?
ii. Has a Rural Safety Co-ordinator been appointed (in writing) to co-ordinate all rural
policing activities? (an appointed Sector Commander could also be appointed as a Rural
Safety Co-ordinator).
iii. Has a Rural Safety Plan been developed in co-operation with all stakeholders to address
crime in the rural community in an integrated manner (mobilisation orders/activation
plans)?
iv. Are rural safety meetings facilitated with the rural community to create awareness and
enhance access, response and service delivery?
v. Has a capability been established to respond to incidents in the rural community as well as
to plan and execute joint crime prevention operations to address crime in the rural
community, including stock theft (Visible Policing members, Tactical Response Team,
Public Order Policing Unit and/or Stock Theft Unit in accordance with Standard Operating
Procedures (SOP)?
vi. Have joint crime prevention programmes/projects and operations been implemented in co-
operation with all role-players to address contributing factors influencing crime and crime
in general (Government, Non-Governmental Organisations and the rural community)?
(SAPS, 2016: np).
One of the proactive measures being enforced at rural police stations was the national
instruction that all acts of violence against person(s) on farms and smallholdings had to be reported
to the SAPS Visible Policing Division within 24 hours. However, one of the drawbacks to faster
implementation had been the slow recruitment of additional numbers of police reservists with the
final policy on reservists only being approved at the beginning of 2016. But, the allocation of rural
police reservists to their local rural police stations was being hampered since their recruitment was
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difficult as some farmers would not allow their farm workers to also work as reservists
(Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2016: np).
During this implementation period, there also occurred the slow establishment in some
provinces of Community Safety Forums (CSFs). CSFs are responsible for facilitating a multi-
sectoral government approach to the safety of communities. In other words, the CSF approach
being broader and more inclusive than that of Community Police Forums (CPFs) since they include
all the departments in the JCPS cluster (the departments of: Defence and Military Veterans; Police;
Justice and Correctional Services; Home Affairs; State Security; and Finance, as well as
representatives from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS))
(AgriSA, 2018: 63).
A focus on extending the reach of the criminal justice system for application in rural areas
saw the training in 2017 of 87 state prosecutors at the Justice College by the National Prosecuting
Authority (NPA) to specifically deal with stock theft cases. It was hoped this would speed up and
reduce backlogs of livestock theft cases and increase the rate of successful prosecutions in the
courts (AgriSA, 2018: 63).
To further improve safety and security, AgriSA had, in 2017, started the planning (in
conjunction with Fidelity private security company) for a national protection system. The plan
being to incorporate every farm into a home alarm system that can be effectively monitored using
new technology platforms and Wi-Fi capabilities in centralised or linked control rooms all over
the country from where assistance (rapid tactical response teams) could be summoned. This
envisaged security system would focus on the provision of: monitoring of alarm systems
countrywide; armed response with specialised tactical intervention teams including technical
support and forensic investigations capabilities such teams backed up by tactical aerial support.
The services to include private investigations, taking of statements, compiling dockets and
processing this collected information and then liaising with the police and SAPS specialist units
to ensure that the perpetrators of all rural crime be timeously arrested and successfully prosecuted.
Such activities to then also include the monitoring of progress made with cases on the court
register. If such a system was fully implemented, it was the fervent belief of AgriSA that a firm
grip on finally reducing all rural crime to negligible levels (AgriSA, 2018: 66).
CONCLUSION
Whatever the diverse and divergent views on the issues of farm attacks, farm murders and farm
security or the policing of rural areas by the various sectors of the rural communities, it does not
detract from the fact that rural residents, whether farm owners, farm workers, those living on
communal (tribal) lands or small-town residents, are equally entitled to protection from the
depredations of all forms of crime. However, in general, it would appear that, since the almost full
completion in all rural police stations of the implementation of the Rural Safety Plan by the end of
2016, policing of all rural crime (including farm attacks and livestock theft) has shown annual
improvement in terms of effectiveness and improved service delivery, which has impacted overall
on better response rates to rural crime being experienced by rural communities across the country.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
This article emanates in part from a conference paper titled: Rural crime in South Africa: Searching
for explanations, presented to the American Society of Criminology 72nd Annual Meeting: The
many colors of crime and justice [Theme Panel: Criminology of Food and Agriculture. PART I
(Farm Victimisation)]. New Orleans. 16-19 November 2016. The authors would like to
acknowledge the support funding provided by the College of Law Research and Innovation
Committee of the University of South Africa enabling attendance at this conference.
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___________
ENDNOTES:
1. AfriForum is an organisation linked to the Solidarity trade union. It was established in 2006 to encourage the re-
engagement of the Afrikaners and other minorities in the public sphere. It promotes the protection of Afrikaner
culture (see https://www.afriforum.co.za/tuis/).
2. As from 2013 AfriForum began collecting their own statistics on farm attacks/farm murders and from that year
combined theirs with TAAU (Roets, 2018: 36).
3. At the time Duxita Mistry and Jabu Dhlamini were senior researcher and contract researcher respectively at the
Institute for Human Rights and Criminal Justice Studies at the TechnikonSA. Subsequently both were appointed
in April 2001 to the Special Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks.
4. Among the interview questions asked of them were the following: Family background; circumstances surrounding
the attacks; their emotional state before, during and after the attack; reasons for targeting particular farms; their
knowledge about security on those farms; and involvement in other crimes.
5. The term ‘house robbery’ is defined as a robbery at a residential premise where the residence is simultaneously
occupied when the robbery occurs and is usually accompanied by violence perpetrated by the robbers against the
occupants (as opposed to a burglary being theft by breaking-and-entry of a residence where occupants are absent)
(see Zinn, 2008).
6. On a yearly basis during the November meeting of the NSTF, the average monetary value of livestock is
determined, which is then used for the next year to calculate the economic impact of livestock theft on the farming
community by calculating that year’s average market prices at auction of the various types of livestock. These
values do not take into account the loss of future breeding herds and genetic stock (Clack, 2016: 11).
7. See the National Instruction of the South African Reserve Police Service, No. 1 of 2002
______________________
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South Africa’s history of colonialism and apartheid has left the country in conflict over land. Especially politicians are accused of exploiting the land issue and stigmatising white landowners. Beside farmers being at risk of becoming a victim of a farm attack, landowners also fear that their land will be expropriated without compensation due to new legislation. The occurrence of farm attacks against white farmers and the hate speech by politicians directed at the white population have given rise to the ‘white genocide’ narrative. Besides the ‘white genocide’ narrative, narratives on farm attacks, especially in the context of the land issue, are lacking in criminological research. This qualitative research aimed at filling the gap through describing and exploring the narratives of social interest groups on farm attacks and its link to expropriation without compensation. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted and the Twitter API was used to gather tweets, which resulted in a large dataset. A narrative analysis was employed and insight was obtained in the formation, spread and possible consequences of narratives on the land issue and farm attacks. Although the social interest groups shared the same goal, the narratives were heterogenous. The research indicated that especially the behaviour of radical politicians surrounding the land issue influenced the forming of narratives on farm attacks. In addition, the perceived threats resulting from that behaviour form a risk in maintaining and fuelling the ethnic tensions in South Africa. However, friction was not only found between different ethnicities, but also between the social interest groups with different narratives. Hence, in order to maintain peace in South Africa and improve the situation for South African landowners, farmers and farm dwellers, social interest groups must come together and actively include organisations and people from other ethnicities to shift the situation from conflict to cooperation.
... Furthermore, while this data attempts to quantify the direct economic impact of AC, it does not account for the indirect economic impact experienced by farmers who have been victimised resulting from increased insurance premiums, insurance shortfalls, and loss of income (Smith, 2018), but also the increased costs of crime prevention measures (Mawby, 2014). Neither does it account for the economic impact for the farming sector as a result of reduced food security attributable to AC (Clack and Minnaar, 2018) resulting from livestock theft and illegal slaughter, nor the costs involved with the isolated nature of many farms (Barclay and Donnermeyer, 2007). ...
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Agricultural crime is increasingly becoming a fact of life for British farmers. While no official figures exist for this type of crime, key rural stakeholders such as insurers publish regular indicators of the level of the problem. However, these figures, and much of the extant academic research focus almost exclusively on the financial impact of agricultural crime. To date, no research has examined how agricultural crime impacts the mental health of farmers. This research is the first to explore not only how agricultural crime impacts the mental health and wellbeing of farmers in Britain, but also how agricultural crime compares to other farming stressors in its impact on the mental health of British farmers. An online survey was designed and administered to reach farmers across Britain to obtain quantitative data, but also qualitative data relating to stressors. The data shows that agricultural crime has a significant impact on farmer mental health, with numerous aspects of crime having a clear association with the experience of a number of mental health indicators. The research concludes that there is a clear research gap regarding crime as a farmer stressor and the direct impact this has on farmer mental health. It is argued that the findings of this research support the need for a wider discussion among key stakeholders to examine how farmers can be better supported to address the crime-related factors that are now known to directly affect farmer mental health.
... For many decades in Africa, ruralbased farms were not much concerned about crime as the impact was minimal. However, in the last few years, South Africa has seen an increase in crime against fish farms, and in some cases, fish farmers are murdered [39]. This alone has a potential to discourage entrepreneurs from engaging in fish farming or to make them discontinue their operations altogether. ...
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... The NSTPF (2016) and Anon (1999) call for all relevant stakeholders collaboration in the agricultural sector to work against this crime, while, Myburgh (2007) highlights the importance of the Commando System and other structures introduced to combat stocktheft in South Africa. Clack and Minnaar (2018) further expressed the associated shortcomings of Anti-Stocktheft Structures across South Africa. In summation, some of the selected participants for this article, more especially, the KwaZulu-Natal SAPS STUs stated that they require resources and manpower to effectively deal with the escalating stocktheft in the area. ...
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... The NSTPF (2016) and Anon (1999) call for all relevant stakeholders collaboration in the agricultural sector to work against this crime, while, Myburgh (2007) highlights the importance of the Commando System and other structures introduced to combat stocktheft in South Africa. Clack and Minnaar (2018) further expressed the associated shortcomings of Anti-Stocktheft Structures across South Africa. In summation, some of the selected participants for this article, more especially, the KwaZulu-Natal SAPS STUs stated that they require resources and manpower to effectively deal with the escalating stocktheft in the area. ...
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Residents of Limpopo (LIM) and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province are witnessing higher rates of stock theft, with the inhabitants of the selected communities living in fear for the prevention of this scourge. This study explores the extent of this crime in the selected areas of LIM and KZN, considering contributory factors, determining the relationship between the South African Police Service Stock Theft Units (SAPS STUs) and other relevant stakeholders, as well as looking at existing strategies (And their failures and successes) in responding to this crime effectively. A qualitative research approach coupled with Non-probability: Purposive sampling was used in this study. The targeted population consisted of 113 participants. For data collections, Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), Key Informant Interviews (KIIs), and Observation Schedules were adopted. lack of appropriate preventative measures has led to rise of stock theft, it was, therefore, discovered that both the affected livestock farmers and members of the community lost confidence toward the police, Besides, the perspectives on stock theft prevention in LIM and KZN reflect a greater challenge, with inadequate solutions present, since the current preventative measures are ineffective. Thus, understanding stock theft phenomenon is critical to its prevention as the sector of livestock in South Africa is the contributory key to the value of the agricultural economy.
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Criminological profiling and assessments of offenders have proved to be a valuable tool in the prediction and rehabilitation of criminal behaviour. However, such assessments have mostly been applied to violent types of crimes. Although economic crimes such as theft and fraud have not been neglected, the value and application of criminological profiling and the assessment of offenders who perpetrated the crime of livestock theft has not been fully explored. This article focuses on three case studies drawn from court case records and otherrelated literature of individuals who have been found guilty of livestock theft. The aim is to explore, describe and examine these case studies from a criminological perspective following an in-depth qualitative case study analysis. This analysis shows that livestock theft in particular is not a typical crime committed out of a need for immediate gratification of hunger (or so-called ‘potslagting’ [slaughtering for the pot]), but a crime that is committed by individuals who come from different socio-economic backgrounds, who have diverse social standings in society and who commit this type of crime for various reasons. The data includes a discussion on the motives, causes and contributory factors linked to the crime of livestock theft. Furthermore, the need to implement an Africanised approach to explain crime from a criminological point of view is briefly debated with particular reference to the explanation of livestock theft. Livestock are seen, not only as a commodity, but also as something that has cultural significance. Therefore, the contributory value of the application of criminological profiling and offender assessments towards the prevention and policing of livestock theft should not be overlooked.
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