The moment the Democratic Alliance (DA) launched its 16 Point Plan in June, aimed at forcing a razor focus on farm attacks and murders, the ANC suddenly flipped its compassion switch. Overnight it began to take an interest – via Premiers and various Ministers – in the tortures and general horrors of South African farm attacks. They began to speak out against these atrocities.
We almost believed them. One of the focus areas on our 16-point plan was to have farm attacks and murders declared to be Priority Crimes. This would guarantee the additional resources in terms of equipment and personnel to truly make a difference and bring down the daily attacks, and twice weekly murders on our farms and small holdings.
In Parliament on the 18th August, the Minister of Police said in answer to a DA question (Q 311) related to our call to make farm attacks and murders National Priority Crimes that, “the Murder and Robbery unit and the Hawks will respond to… all attacks on farms and small holdings”. When pushed, he added that he had read out the list, and that attacks on farms and small holdings were on the list of Priority Crimes. That they were already a priority.
In typical Cele fashion, he promptly contradicted himself just one month later, when speaking in KwaZulu-Natal. At an imbizo there, he said that farm attacks and murders would not be classified as priority crimes.
It seems to this Minister, that farmers’ lives just don’t matter, that farm workers’ lives just don’t matter, and that the lives of their families – their parents, spouses and children – just don’t matter.
It is interesting to note that he didn’t hesitate, for example, to declare Cash-in-Transit heists to be Priority Crimes. He took charge and suddenly, massive resources went towards ensuring that money being transported in trucks was given protection. A Summit was held, Cash-in-Transit heists were discussed by all the key roll-players, and solutions were determined.
His about face in relation to declaring rural attacks to be priority crimes has the DA asking; does a van full of cash really mean more to him than the lives of the men and women who grow our food? Does the DA have to tell him that one can’t eat money? That the agricultural sector, with 1 million jobs, is the very backbone of our country? A Strategic Resource? And that our farmers and farm workers barely sleep as they wait for the next hail of bullets, or a silent mass attack with slashing pangas and metal bars?
For a while now the ANC has pretended that rural lives matter. It has pretended that our farmers and farm workers matter. But that was a lie. Cele has shattered that fragile hope. At his KZN imbizo his arrogant dismissal of the voiced fears of farmers who have suffered attacks over and over again has infuriated the community. That attitude, added to his reversal of a statement that gave us so much hope, claiming now that these attacks will not be declared to be Priority Crimes, has left our rural communities in despair.
Now we know the truth. To the ANC the daily blinding and beating and crippling of farmers and farm workers is not a priority. Their being slaughtered is unimportant. Certainly, far less important than a van full of cash.
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