The question of how white South African are being treated has been in the news quite a bit lately. Specifically, I’ve seen the claim that there is a form of genocide being committed on white farmers.
South Africa has a crime problem, and that includes a high murder rate. No one disputes this. The question is if the murder rate in particular reveals that a white population (specifically white farmers) is being targeted.
This blog has become increasingly focused on trying to find the truth hiding behind click bait articles, fake news and biased perspectives. This seemed like a good opportunity to do some digging. I’m sure there is more to find; feel free to post links that would add further light to this discussion. (Note: the statistics available are not as tight as I would like. I work with what I can find.)
* * * * *
1. Black South Africans (who make up 80 percent of the population in South Africa) own just 4 percent of the nation’s agricultural land. The white minority (around 10% of the population) owns 72 percent thanks to the legacy of apartheid, during which blacks could not own land. When apartheid ended in 1994, whites owned 94% of the land. The government decided in 2016 to “expropriate” property from white owners (with proper compensation) to address this inequality; they are currently pushing to do the same without proper compensation. That, however unfair, is different from the question of genocide.
I point out the discrepancy in land ownership to note that one question we must ask is this: is the murder rate of farmers in South Africa at least roughly in line with the racial percentages? At this point, 74% of murders could involve white farmers, and this would do nothing to point toward targeted killing based on race. Good news: we have statistics.
“The last analysis of farm attack victims, by race, was conducted in the early 2000s. In 2001, the police’s Crime Information Analysis Centre revealed that of the 61.6-percent were white, 33.3 percent were black, 4.4 percent were Asian and 0.7 percent were listed as 'other'”.
In other words, black farmers are dying at far greater rate in terms of percentage of farmers. Note also, this was in 2001 before the government began forcing redistribution, so the difference between black and white ownership was even higher.
“TAUSA’s figures suggest that… 13.5% of those murdered in farm attacks between 1990 and 2012 were black. “
Remember: black farmers own 4% of farmland.
2. There were 74 people total, from all races, murdered on South African farms and smallholdings in 2016/17 financial year, according to the police's official record. (2017 -2018 dropped to 47 murders). 19,016 people were murdered in South Africa in 2016/2017. So that 74 is around .004 of total murders. Or, not genocide, even if all of them were white. Which they weren't.
According to politicsweb, between 1997 and 2001, the years right after apartheid ended, blacks made up 76% of the populace; 78% died “unnatural deaths.” Whites were 11% and died at under 10%. When it comes to male deaths by assault, black men accounted for 81% of the deaths, and white men 4%. If anything, violence still skewed against the black population.
3. There is a very real problem in the reporting when it comes to clarifying what a farm is and whether or not you count just farmers or anybody on a farm.
“The… murder rate of farmers… is different to farm murder rate (the former is the rate of farmers murdered while the latter is the rate of people murdered on farms)…We’d then have to get an estimate of the numbers of farmers in the country, whether they be commercial, smallholding, subsistence – but right now that number doesn’t exist…"
“2007 census data for the number of farmers, which does not include family members, workers and visitors. By contrast, the murder count does include these groups. Africa Check calculated that if all these family members and employees were to be included, it would bring the number of people on farms up substantially, which in turn would push the murder rate down…significantly below the national average.” This census also “didn’t include farmers on small holdings, non-commercial farms and those with a turnover of less than R300,000 a year.”
“First, take the 50 murdered farmers counted by the TAU in 2016 (which excludes murders of family members, employees and visitors). Then, divide by 32,000 - an estimate of the total number of farmers, based on the 2007 figure. There are problems with this approach. First, the data is very old, so the number of farmers may be different now. Second, to exclude murdered family members, employees, and visitors to the farm from such an analysis misses part of the picture of what is happening on South African farms - but we don't know how many of those people there are. Third, the 2007 census did not include small, non-commercial farms - but some of the murders counted in the figures did take place on smaller farms. By leaving them out, the murder rate comes out higher than it should."
“To calculate a farm murder rate, you need two numbers: the number of people who were murdered in farm attacks and the number of people who work on, live on or visit farms and smallholdings,” says independent fact-checking organization . According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), there were 74 farm murders in 2016-17 - up by 28% from the previous year, and the highest number since 2010-11. However, there is no breakdown by race, and it is unclear whether the victims were farmers, workers, family members or visitors."
“'Whites are far less likely to be murdered than their black or coloured counterparts,'Lizette Lancaster, who manages the Institute for Security Studies crime and justice hub, told Africa Check. This is supported by an analysis of a national sample of conducted by police in 2009. In 86.9% of the cases, the victims were Africans. Whites accounted for 1.8% of the cases (although whites make up 8.85% of the population).According to a 2003 police committee of inquiry into farm attacks, cited by Solidarity, 38.4% of farm attack victims were described as being black, coloured or Asian. TAUSA’s figures suggest that… 13.5% of those murdered in farm attacks between 1990 and 2012 were black."
* * * * *
Good news: there is not a campaign of genocidal, targeted attack on white farmers in South Africa. There are a few incidents that appears to be racially motivated, but there is no reason to believe they are part of any kind of larger movement.