NEWS

AgriSA Won't Join AfriForum's Farm Murders Protest

AfriForum and TAU have organised a protest march to the Union Buildings, Pretoria, to deliver a memorandum to the president on November 25.

20/11/2017 15:19 SAST | Updated 20/11/2017 16:11 SAST
DAVID HARRISON / AFP / Getty Images
South African farmers and farm workers attend a demonstration at the Green Point stadium to protest against farmer murders in the country, on October 30, 2017, in Cape Town.

Agricultural industry body AgriSA's member organisations have urged the body not to participate in an upcoming "mass protest" march against farm murders organised by AfriForum.

AgriSA on Monday said it consulted its member organisations throughout the country after being approached to participate in the march, all of which said the "time was not right to become involved in further protest actions".

Member groups, including nine provincial and 25 commodity organisations, cited concerns around the "inclusive nature of Black Monday" potentially becoming politicised as well as the "political undertones" of the march as reasons for their unwillingness to participate, AgriSA said in a statement.

READ: 'Genoeg is Genoeg' -- Farmers Unite In Black Monday Protest

It also said the representatives of its member organisations were satisfied that the message about South Africans having "had enough of crime" was already conveyed clearly on Black Monday and did not warrant a subsequent march.

"Our focus is now on working in a solution-driven manner. Now is the time for sober leadership and calmness. Civil society, including farmers and farmworkers, must join hands to expose crime at grassroots level within our own communities," said Dan Kriek, president of AgriSA.

READ: Black Monday: Are Farm Murders And Attacks An Escalating Crisis?

AFP/Getty Images/Gulshan Kahn
Members of the South African civic organisation, Afriforum and others in solidarity with the #Blackmonday movement pray during a demonstration against farm murders, at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria on October 30, 2017.

#StopTheMurders / #StopDieMoorde

Lobby group AfriForum in late October announced it would lead a #StopTheMurders march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on November 25, in hopes further protest action would draw greater attention to murders and attacks on farms throughout the country.

Co-hosting the event with the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU-SA), AfriForum in a press release said it would approach other organisations to become involved and urged farmers, workers and the broader public to take part in the march.

AfriForum's deputy CEO, Ernst Roets, criticised Police Minister Fikile Mbalula for showing "no urge to combat farm murders with a focused counter strategy".

"Farmers are tortured to death on farms in unusual ratios, and the best that the minister can do is to warn that those who transgress the law while protesting against this, will be arrested," he is quoted saying in an online invitation dated October 23, days before the Black Monday protests.

"Mbalula is an accessory to the crisis... therefore, we will address this crisis ourselves. Our protest actions are therefore not to convince the minister and the president that they must solve our problems, but to show the media and international society why we are doing it ourselves," said Roets.

Meanwhile, Kriek in AgriSA's statement said it "strongly condemns all forms of violence and will continue to lobby government to combat crime effectively".

David Harrison/ AFP/Getty Images
A picture shows a slogan on a pick up truck during a demonstration by South African farmers & farm workers at the Green Point stadium to protest against farmer murders in the country, on October 30, 2017, in Cape Town.

"We are working with the police to find solutions to effectively implement strategies and policies to improve rural safety," he said.

We regard this process, as well as the solutions it can offer, as a priority.Dan Kriek, AgriSA President

Kriek said the organisation understands farming communities' frustration, but that they shouldn't allow crime to cause divides.

READ: Agri SA President: 'Crime Doesn't Recognise Colour'

"Now is the time to stand together and combat this evil inclusively. Crime can divide us. We should rather use it as an opportunity to participate in discussions where everyone is involved," he said.

He also said farmers were thinking creatively about their own safety and using technology in innovative ways to combat crime.

"The Agri Securitas Trust Fund is the only -- and unique -- form of practical assitance to farming communities and is involved in the funding of cameras, drones, equipment... used during security operations," he said.

He said the organisation wishes to focus on giving "practical assistance to all farmers and farm workers at grassroots level".