White farm murders in South Africa – Race hate, politics or greed? | Foreign Correspondent
(REPORTER) Apartheid tore South Africa apart. Some say the white oppressors are now the persecuted. White farms are being robbed
and farmers murdered. – Not only do they kill but the
way they kill. They torture you. – The government says they’re crimes like
any other, in a society where poverty breeds violence. – There is crime which is affecting
everyone, whether black or white. – Their victims claim that behind the farm attacks is
racial hatred stirred up by politicians. – We’ve been murdered for some time now. They are coming to take the land as well and I think that it’s very hard to conclude that there is not a racist motive. (CHANTS) Shoot to kill!
Brrrrrr pow! Attention! – This is hate, this is political hate. – You are saying enough is enough. We are taking the future
into our own hands. – A hundred and eighty years ago, Afrikaner
farmers – the Boers – crossed the Vaal River with their ox wagons and flocks. They bought off or fought off the scattered
tribes that lived across the river. A century later, any black landowners that remained were forced to leave. Under the policy of apartheid, the only blacks who were allowed to live here were workers on the white men’s farms or in the white men’s mines. (INSTRUCTOR) Keep those weapons on the target. Keep
your triangles gentlemen. – Now it’s the Boers who are feeling under siege. – Keep your barrel on the target. I want as many barrels pointing at windows as possible. – When a farm attack’s reported, armed civilians often arrive long before police. – I haven’t heard anybody shout if there’s somebody in the house. Have we got a victim there? – The guns aren’t loaded but this training exercise is deadly serious. – Move move yeah. – There might be survivors in the house in desperate need of help, but the criminals might still be in there too. – OK, gents. What you did here was better than when you were coming through that door. – Trevor Roberts’ security company Conserv used to
specialise in guarding wildlife against poachers. – You guys are coming around and you’re
tending to turn the weapon. – Now deterring and responding to violent robberies on isolated farms is his company’s core business. – As little of your body being shown as possible. – A gun battle, he says, is the last thing he wants his volunteers to face. – So to there and then, move, move, move. – The ideal situation is to rather get the
perpetrators out of the house and into the fields. – So you’d rather scare them away … – Rather scare them away and run and our objective is to save a life and that would
be the victim. – An hour’s drive south-west of Muldersdrift, on the maize fields around Fochville, on May the 13th of this year, nobody was scared away and nobody’s life was saved. 78-year old Fanie Engelbrecht didn’t have time to call for help. When Fanie and his wife Colleen didn’t show up for a Mother’s Day lunch, his son, Jo-an strolled 300 meters up the track to his parent’s house to investigate. When I came here my dad’s vehicle was standing here like he was already back from church, nothing unusual and I went into the house. As I entered into the hall here, there was a lot of blood lying on the floor here and I immediately realised that something is wrong. This is the door they actually broke down to get to the study and I found them lying there, tied together, next to each other. – Right here, tied together?
– yeah, they were tied. My dad was lying on his back. My mother was lying face down, hands tied behind her back. My dad had a big gaping hole like the size of a golf ball in his throat. There was a pool of blood here, all over. When I touched him, he was cold already. My mother was lying face down but she was still hot. But I couldn’t feel a pulse. Their throats were slit. They were tortured here. I found an iron chord around my mother’s neck. She was obviously… they tortured her and yeah. – Why do you think they would have done that? I think they wanted the keys for the safes, they wanted the keys for the vehicles and they tortured them to
get that information out of them. – And then they killed them anyway.
– Then they kill them, yeah, when they’re done. My dad always said “it’s not if, it’s when”.
– Did he? Yeah. He knew it’s coming. We all know it’s coming. It’s just a question of when. When Jo-an called his wife Sua to tell her the grim news, she could barely speak to their daughter Tessa. – Aren’t you frightened to live here? – Belatedly, with the help of his neighbour, Jo-an Engelbrecht is installing electrified security fences around his farmhouse, mainly to
assuage the fears of this wife and daughter. I’m doing it because it might make them feel safer, but I know for sure that if they want you, they will get you outside. You can build a prison around your house but at some point, you have to leave that prison and go out and farm. And that’s where they get you” In Australia a double murder on a farm would be headline news for days. Not in South Africa. It’s just too common an event. – My one neighbour, Johannes Kitchin and his wife, they were murdered about six months ago. Then there is Miss Simpson.
– Nicky Simpson? Nicky Simpson. She was tortured. Drilled through her knees and feet. Then there is Pitti Hoo, also a neighbour, not far from here, he was shot. Karl Hall was shot. So in the last 10, 20 years in this area I can name 20, 30 attacks, murders on farmers. “Plaas Moorde” is Afrikaans for farm murders. On a hillside in Limpopo province, a private landowner has planted more than 2000 crosses. Each one represents an individual murdered in a farm attack since 1994. 75 more crosses were added last year,
but that figure is controversial. The nation’s biggest commercial farmers’ union claims there were only 47 farm murders last year, the lowest number in nearly 20 years. AfriForum, an outspoken Afrikaner lobby group, says that figure is absurd. It’s certainly wrong. During the calendar year of 2017, there’s been 84 farm murders that we could verify and when we say we could verify, we mean we have a list and we have the names of the people actually who’ve been murdered so to say that there’s only been 47 is… I don’t know if it’s malicious or if it’s negligence, or if there’s a problem with the process in collecting the data, there could be a variety of
reasons why the number is wrong. Whether farm murders last year numbered 47 or 75 or 84… they’re dwarfed by the total number of people killed in one of the most violent societies on earth. This place perhaps deliberately reminds a visitor of a war cemetery and like all such places it’s moving. Each one of these crosses represents somebody’s father or mother, somebody’s son or daughter whose life was brutally cut short. And yet these 2000 crosses represent white farmers and their families murdered since 1994. If you planted a cross for every South African black or white who’s been murdered just last year, the crosses would stretch beyond the horizon – nearly 20,000 of them and most of them have no memorial. Nor far from the Engelbrecht’s farm near Fochville is the so-called “informal settlement” of Diepsloot. It’s a place of dire poverty and soaring unemployment. It wouldn’t be wise to venture in here without a guide. Local journalist, Golden Mtika is mine. He introduces me to Sebasu, whose family of 8 lives in a one room shack. She’s been waiting for a government house for 11 years. Most of that time she’s been unemployed. – I’ve done nursing, a two-year course, yes, but I still can’t find even just any other job even without the one that I have qualifications for. – Where would you like to live if you could choose? I would like to choose to live somewhere else because this place, I have small kids and I don’t think it’s a good environment for my kids to grow in and we don’t even have water and more especially about sanitation, it’s something that… – Hard to keep the kids clean and healthy, right? – Yes, yes, even to play on a clean environment. Yes Lack of sanitation is the last of Diepsloot’s problems, Golden tells me. It’s plagued by crime, violence and mob justice. The brutality that’s a feature of many farm attacks is commonplace here. Last year November here, there was about 4 suspects who were apprehended by the community. They accused them of rape and they brought them here, to this pile of rubbish that you see here. It was a multitude of people that were here. All of them they were murdered here, they were killed by the residents. They were stoned, beaten by sharp objects. They put tyres around their necks, poured petrol, then they set them alight on, so they died here. – And they were alive when they did that? – Yes, when they brought them here they were
alive. Yes, they killed them here It’s not just in the settlements and the countryside that crime is rising. In South Africa’s great cities, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria – there’s a crime wave too. Armed robberies of security vans,
home invasions, street muggings. According to the internationally respected Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, armed attacks have increased 40% since 2012. We have a real problem with violence and it’s expressed in various different ways and so for us sitting in South Africa, looking at these 19,000 murders, looking at trying at… trying to get a sense of where it’s taking place, the various complex factors that result into it, this growth in armed attacks, the gangs involved in cash in transit heists, and then suddenly there’s this international attention on the murders of white farmers. It just sort of seems completely disproportionate. It’s not that it isn’t a problem, of course for the victims it’s terribly traumatic, but it’s not the biggest challenge facing South Africa. – Is there any evidence for the claim that’s often made that the farm attacks in particular are politically driven? That they’re part of some organised campaign to drive the whites from the land? – There’s no credible evidence that the attacks against white farmers is organised or politically driven. There is evidence that the attacks on white farmers in South Africa are largely driven by criminal intent – greed. – But AfriForum’s, Ernst Roets, says it’s too simplistic to claim that the farm attackers have only one motive. – Certainly robbery plays a role, and the intention to steal plays a role, but certainly there’s enough evidence that racism plays a big role and there’s enough evidence that political influences play a big role. There are reported cases where the murderers themselves have said that they were influenced by politics in the committing of these crimes. And secondly, even more concerning than that, is the political climate in South Africa. (CROWD SINGING AND WHISTLING) – That climate is heating up, the white farmers say, and one cause is the rise of a new political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, or EFF. I’ve come to one of their rallies in North West province, where the mood to me seems far from hostile. Jobs, opportunities, university and for everything. I love the EFF with my whole life. (JOYOUS SINGING) – The red berets and T shirts are a clear enough statement – this is an old fashioned communist party. Its policy is to nationalise all land in South Africa and redistribute it to the poor and needy. The EFF’s self-styled Commander-in-
Chief is Julius Malema, a former leader of the ruling African
National Congress’s Youth League. – We are not going to accept that the poor of the poor must be excluded from education because they do not have money. – Expelled from the ANC in 2012, he started his own rival party and promises the world to his followers. – Education is a right, all of us
must have access to education. (CROWD CHEERS) But there’s a dark side to Julius Malema’s populism. He sets race against race with a recklessness that shocks the political establishment. At this rally, he takes aim at the Indian middle class. The majority of Indians hate Africans.
The majority of Indians are racist. But his favourite target is the white landowner. He urges his followers to take back
what was stolen from them. – The white minority which took our land by force, you must say enough is enough, we
are taking the future into our own hands. At the end of almost every speech he sings an old ANC war song, “Kill the Boer”, although that particular phrase has
been banned as hate speech. – Shoot to kill. Shoot to kill. Pow. Pow, Pow Pow – For all his blatant racial dog-whistling, Malema has proved to be a shrewd political operator. – There’s nothing you can do, there’s
nothing this parliament can do. With or without you, people
are going to occupy land. It was the EFF in parliament who proposed a motion in favour of expropriating land without compensation, a move that the ANC, led by new state President Cyril Ramaphosa, had little choice but to support. So far, the ANC has not seized any farmland without paying market price. But when I caught up with the ANC’s spokesman on land reform, Ronald Lamola, at a fancy conference centre outside Pretoria, he
made it clear that it soon will. – There will be expropriation of some of the white-owned farmlands. There will be expropriation of land that government needs for roads or for residential purposes so there will be expropriation. – We’ve talked to white farmers who say, ‘We are being attacked and not sufficiently protected by the government, and now, our land is under threat as well. What they want to do is get rid of us’.
What is your response to that? – It’s not true. There’s not such a thing. There’s no crime targeted to white people in South Africa. It’s crime that’s happening in the farms, it’s happening everywhere and government is doing its best to resolve the crime problem. With regard to the land question, there is no way we can avoid it. We have to address the land question. – Farmers like Jo-an Engelbrecht say the mere threat of expropriation has dramatically affected the market for private land. I mean if you wanted to sell this farm now,
would you get a good price for it? – Nothing. It’s zero. It’s worth zero.
– Already? We had several auctions in the last 2-3 weeks cancelled because there was no people interested in buying land. Why would you buy a farm and tomorrow the government is going to take it? – And who is going to buy a farm if
living there endangers their lives? – What’s happened is I’ve just
spoken to a tenant here of plot 174. He thinks he disturbed some people that were in his house, that were breaking in. – A night time training exercise turns into a genuine manhunt. Trevor Roberts’ convoy of volunteers, a dozen vehicles strong, begins to inspect the fence lines around the property, looking for signs that the robbers are making for a nearby township. What are you looking for Ryan?
– Fence cuts. Cattle signs… anything they would have left behind while passing through a fence. You know they sometimes wrap toilet paper around the fences as a marker so if they’re trying to get away quickly in the dark, it’s an easy marker for them
to know where they can escape to. – This time it’s not a serious attack, just a break in while the residents were out. – Okay they’ve found a laptop bag.
– Did you hear? Are you on radio? – I heard. Yes.
– Okay fine. The chances still remain they’re going to run this way so our action must carry on. We’ve got lots of people down there as well so we’re covered. Okay are you ready? – But the threat to farmers’ lives is as great as ever. In the brief time we spent in South Africa, seven people were murdered in farm attacks. The argument about what
motivates these crimes goes on. My personal opinion about this is that these farm attacks are partially motivated by money, greed and partially about politics, you know the situation in our country. Not only do they kill, but the way they kill. They torture you, they hurt you, and
this is, this is hate. This is political hate. – Yeah, there has been a lot of
those tensions happening. – It’s a view that’s echoed, unexpectedly, by my guide through the alleyways of Diepsloot, Golden Mtika. He says he knows several gang members who’ve taken part in farm attacks. – Most often those crimes they don’t just end up being clean crimes. They end up killing the person as well. – Why?
– Sometimes through resistance, that the farmer does not want to give them what they want. Even if he has or he doesn’t have, they would use force on him and end up killing the person. You see. And some of them, they have that past ideology of saying, you know, “the farmers took our land for free” and when they go there they take out the anger on them. – So you think there is a racial… – Yes. There is that racial element in it as well. It’s a thing of the past that was there and is still continuing in the form of robberies, yeah, but it is there. (It) is there. The shadow of their bitterly divided past still hangs over all South Africans, black and white, poor and prosperous. (CONGREGATION SINGS HYMN) An hour’s drive away from Diepsloot, the burghers of Fochville gather each Sunday to pray for forgiveness and survival. For more than a century the Dutch reformed Church of South Africa provided the theological bedrock upon which apartheid was built. God created separate races, it told its flock, and separate they should stay. Its ministers no longer preach that message. But there are no black faces here. These people know their Bible: Exodus 34, verse 7: “The Lord God… visits the sins of the fathers on their children and their children’s children”. Many younger Afrikaners have already left the church and the country too. If she has her way, Tessa Engelbrecht, devout believer though she is, will follow soon – perhaps to Australia. – Yes I would like that. – Like his father before him, Jo-an
is a respected elder of the church. His roots here are generations deep. It’s just a few weeks since his parents’ murder. He’ll get the harvest in he says and then
decide what to do. It won’t be easy. – If you’ve been on the farm for
40 years, two generations, and you’ve put a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears into the farm, you just don’t pack up and leave. – What would make you stay or what
would make you move? How are you going to make that decision? – Well it all depends on the government. If Present Ramaphosa is willing to step up and address the situation in
our country, the crime and the corruption, I will be more than willing to stay, but at this point everything is just going south. – So if it goes on like that? – What future is there for my children? There’s no future here.