Alarm over farm murders
Commercial farms in Namibia are increasingly becoming the target of brutal attacks and murders. Statistics indicate that at least 28 murder cases – with 39 victims - and 41 attacks on farms have been reported in the past 15 years.
This includes the Kareeboomvloer farm massacre in March 2000, when eight people were brutally killed by brothers Sylvester and Gavin Beukes.
The Beukes brothers first shot and killed the farm owners, Justus and Elzabé Erasmus, and then executed all the witnesses. They were farmworker Sunnybooi Swartbooi, his pregnant wife Hilma Engelbrecht, their children Christina
Engelbrecht and Regina Gertze, Swartbooi’s brother Settie Swartbooi, and Deon Gertze.
This year alone there have been seven farm attacks and three farmers have been murdered. The latest murders occurred last week, only days apart.
Only seven months into the year, the number of farm attacks is already among the highest that have been recorded since 2000.
According to the Executive Manager of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), Sakkie Coetzee, the recent murders and attacks on farmers indicate that farms are deliberately targeted by criminals. This has prompted the union to call on the government and the police to address the problem urgently before it escalates. “Until this week I did not want to believe that it is attacks on farms, but believed that is just part of normal crime, but after the recent attacks we believe that farms are being targeted and that they are choosing soft targets,” Coetzee told Namibian Sun.
Statistics indicate that between 1991 and 2000 a total of 22 murders were committed on commercial farms in Namibia.
Over the past 15 years there has been a steady increase in farm attacks, with 69 incidents reported since the year 2000.
The majority of the victims were elderly people.
Statistics made available by the NAU indicate that northern farms have been the main target in the past 15 years with 30 cases reported. In the eastern part of the country 14 farm invasions were reported, whereas eight cases were reported in the central area and five in the western region.
In the five years since 2010 there have been nine murders and 13 attacks on farmers. In 2010 there were two murders; in 2011 two murders and one farm attack; in 2012 five attacks which included one murder; and in 2013 there were three attacks and no murders.
Coetzee stressed that the farming sector is calling on the government and the police to address this immediately.
“I don’t know how we are going to solve it but we want this to be addressed on the same national agenda that gender violence has been addressed.”
The NAU urgently appeals to the government and the police to acknowledge that safety in rural areas, and more specifically the protection of farms, is a priority.
“Together with this the NAU appeals to the government and the police to immediately do everything in their power and use all means at their disposal to prevent the situation from escalating.”
The union also appealed to the farming community to consider their own safety as a priority, to be aware at all times of possible criminal activity in their vicinity and to report this immediately to the police.
According to the Inspector-General of the Namibian Police, Sebastian Ndeitunga, “This is not only a concern to the farming community. This is a very serious concern to me and the entire police force. We must join hands with them and unite.”
He stressed that the police cannot be present on every farm and therefore farmers should approach their regional commanders and join neighbourhood watches or farmers’ unions for extra protection.
“We are very much concerned about the murdering of our farmers.”
According to Ndeitunga the number of farm attacks hasn’t increased so much, but the brutality of the attacks has.
“These criminals are killing people just because they want to steal,” he said.
Ndeitunga stressed that structures have to be put in place and farmers should work together with the police. “We cannot guard every farm and increased vigilance is necessary.”
He also warned that farmers should beware of carrying large amounts of cash.
Tobias Emvula, the president of the Namibian National Farmers’ Union, which represents communal farmers, says they have not experienced any recent increase of attacks on their members.
“There have not been any reports of this type of incidents on communal farms. The attacks seem to be on commercial farmers, but we are all Namibians and must stand together.”
WINDHOEK ELLANIE SMIT