|"Susan Nortje, second left, marches with other families of murdered farmers and survivors of farm attacks." (Eva-Lotta Jansson/Telegraph)|
By Erin Conway-Smith
The Telegraph, December 1, 2012
"On Saturday, in an unprecedented move to mark the second anniversary of the slaughter of a farming family, survivors of farm attacks marched in Pretoria and called for attacks on South Africa's mostly white farmers to be designated a crime of national priority. Since the attack on Attie Potgieter and his family, the simple stone farmhouse where they lived has stood empty and crumbling, with nobody wanting to live in the home where one of South Africa's most disturbingly brutal crimes took place. Mr. Potgieter, a farm caretaker, was stabbed and hacked 151 times with a garden fork, a knife and a machete near Lindley in the Free State -- the agricultural heart of the country. His wife, Wilna, and two-year-old daughter, Willemien, were both made to watch him die, before being shot in the head, execution style. All for pocket money, and possessions of relatively little value -- a too-common story in South Africa's rural areas, where mostly white Afrikaner farmers feel they are being targeted in gratuitously violent attacks on their remote farms and smallholdings. They accuse police and government of failing to make these crimes a priority. And as the horrifying murders continue, they are growing increasingly angry. 'If you kill a rhinoceros in South Africa, you get more time in jail then if you kill a person,' said Susan Nortje, 26, Mrs. Potgieter's younger sister. 'I don't think people understand. We must show people what's really happening.' The murder last weekend of British engineer Chris Preece, 54, who was born in Southgate in north London and found his dream on a piece of rolling farmland bordering Lesotho's Maluti mountains, is the most recent farm killing to make headlines. Mr. Preece spent his weekdays working in Johannesburg before retreating to his beloved farm near the town of Ficksburg, where he and wife Felicity dreamed of starting a nature reserve to save raptor birds and cheetahs. He was stabbed and hacked to death by men who stole just £210 and a mobile phone. Felicity was left severely traumatised with a skull fracture, and has not yet been able to talk about the attack from the Bloemfontein hospital in where she is being treated.
The couple's son, Robert Preece, and his wife, Jeanne, are now considering leaving their native South Africa, because they don't want to raise children in a country 'where a man can be hacked to death for no reason'. 'This isn't something we're going to get over,' Jeanne Preece, 29, told The Sunday Telegraph. 'It is a bottomless weight in all our souls.' On Saturday, in an unprecedented move to mark the second anniversary of the slaughter of the Potgieters, families of murdered farmers and survivors of farm attacks marched in the capital Pretoria and called for attacks on South Africa's mostly white farmers to be designated a crime of national priority. Carrying photos of dead relatives and friends, 200 protesters -- many wearing the khaki shorts and short-sleeved shirts that are the unofficial uniform of white South African farmers -- sought to deliver a memorandum to the country's police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, urging that farm attacks be given the same elevated police attention already accorded to rhinoceros poaching and copper cable theft. 'These murders are marked by a unique level of brutality -- often worse than that found in terrorist attacks,' the memorandum said. 'The argument that farm murders are "only murder" does not hold water.' South African police stopped releasing separate figures on farm attacks in 2007, and incorporated them into wider violent crime statistics. But according to the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa, there have been 2,863 farm attacks and 1,592 farm murders since 1990, and independent think-tanks put the true number of farmers murdered at closer to 3,000. It is now twice as dangerous to be a farmer as it is to be a police officer in South Africa, according to Johan Burger, a senior researcher with the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies' crime and justice programme. Last year the country had a murder rate of 31.9 per 100,000 people, almost 30 times higher than Britain, according to police statistics. For police officers, this rate rises to 51 -- and among farmers, a staggering 99 people killed per 100,000. [...]"
[n.b. Arguably, a case of subaltern genocide -- one that I addressed in my essay, "Subaltern Genocide and the Genocidal Continuum," in the edited volume Genocides by the Oppressed.]