/ 13 September 2023

Report decries low convictions for farm murders and attacks

The Freedom Front Plus and African Christian Democratic Party quoted farm murder rates of 97 and 133 per 100 000 people. This rate would make farm murders around three times the national average.
South Africa has a low rate of arrests and convictions in farm attack and murder cases despite a national police policy to fight crime in rural areas, a report released on Tuesday has revealed.

South Africa has a low rate of arrests and convictions in farm attack and murder cases despite a national police policy to fight crime in rural areas, a report released on Tuesday has revealed.

Lobby group AfriForum’s report analysed the 1 402 farm attacks and murder incidents recorded by the South African Police Service (SAPS) from 2019 to 2022 and found there were convictions in just 66 cases, which means that more than 95% of these violent crimes remain unsolved.

The purpose of the report, which focused on crimes against rural dwellers including farmers, workers and other people living on farms and smallholdings, was to evaluate the arrest and conviction rate of suspects and perpetrators involved in farm attacks and murders in light of the police’s National Rural Safety Strategy, which aims to fight these crimes.

“The results indicate that the arrest and conviction rate for both farm murders and attacks are low. The low arrest rate for attacks (22%) and murders (49%) is of particular concern,” the report found.

“The low arrest rate has two implications, firstly there is the possibility that the perpetrators of attacks will continue to commit crimes, while the victims of these crimes live with the knowledge and fear that these perpetrators have not been apprehended. 

“While it is expected that convictions will almost always be lower than arrests, the low conviction rate for both murders (32%) and attacks (16%) suggests a serious deficiency within either the SAPS or NPA [National Prosecuting Authority].”

In Mpumalanga, arrests were made in just 20% of the cases, while out of the 19

incidents in Gauteng, arrests were made in only two cases (or 11% of cases). There were no prosecutions in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Northern Cape during the period under review.

Out of the 153 farm murders recorded by the police in the four years from 2019 to

2022, there were convictions in only 24 incidents, meaning 84% of farm murders remain unsolved.

The report also shed light on the nationality of the perpetrators and found that most arrested farm attackers were South Africans (78%) followed by Zimbabweans (13%), Mozambicans (5%) and Basotho (2%). 

Suspects from Namibia, Tanzania, Malawi were also among those arrested in connection with the crimes. The majority of arrested murder suspects were also South Africans (86%), while others were Basotho (8%), Zimbabweans (4%), Mozambicans (1%) and those of unknown nationalities (1%).

“Unfortunately, the findings of this report indicate that there are significant delays and inefficiencies within the criminal justice system, leading to protracted court cases and a lack of closure for victims,” the report found.

“The low conviction rates and slow pace of the proceedings exacerbate the insecurity and fear among these communities, underscoring the urgent need for reform.”

Johan Nortjé, the AfriForum researcher who compiled the report, said there had been a low rate of prosecutions despite the National Rural Safety Strategy, implemented in 2019, having an objective to improve crime investigations and increase the number of prosecutions of all crimes in rural areas.

“Weak investigative work, ineffective prosecutions and a clear unwillingness of the government to tackle rural safety and farm attacks in particular are probably the reason for these shocking findings,” said Jacques Broodryk, AfriForum’s spokesperson for community safety.

“The figures reveal a bitter truth, namely that farm attackers not only believe that they can get away with their inexcusable crimes — they know it.”