Events in the greater Ixopo area in 1999 and 2000 illustrate some of the complex connections that can exist between violent crime, a response from the security forces and farmers that appears to cater to the needs of only one section of the community, and assaults on farm residents. Ixopo is a small KwaZulu-Natal town about eighty kilometers south of Pietermaritzburg, probably most famous as the setting for Alan Paton's novel Cry the Beloved Country. It is home to about 15,000 residents, and some 300,000 people live in the surrounding areas of Highflats, Creighton, and Donnybrook, many of them in communities that were formerly part of the KwaZulu homeland. The greater Ixopo area experienced serious political violence during the period leading up to South Africa's first non-racial election in 1994, (673) but was relatively quiet following the elections. There is not a long history of soldiers operating in the area. Since 1999 this situation has changed. 

Violent Crime Against Farm Owners 

Although the Ixopo/Creighton area has not been one of the worst for violent crime against white farmers, the farming community there, as elsewhere in South Africa, feels itself under severe pressure. There are constant concerns about stock theft or land invasion, as well as theft of items such as fencing, and there are always fears that such criminal activities could lead to murders. (674)

In late 1999, two white farmers were murdered. Malcolm Macfarlane, fifty-five, was killed at his farmhouse near Ixopo in October. Two men broke in and shot Macfarlane dead, who had apparently startled them. (675) Eight days later twenty-eight-year-old Bruce Mack was ambushed on a farm road and shot twice in the back of the head. His firearm was stolen, but the killers left his wallet and mobile phone in the vehicle. (676) Bruce Mack's father, Dave Mack, had recently bought a farm in the Highflats area and had been in dispute with the people living on the farm over the conditions on which they could continue to stay there. Dave Mack later suggested that Bruce's murder might be connected with the release on bail of a man arrested for threatening Dave four days earlier. (677)

The farmers of the Ixopo area were "furious" about the murders, according to the president of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union, Fred Visser, who commented that some were on the brink of taking the law into their own hands, and "if that happens there will be a war." (678) The farmers called a meeting of the farming community on October 20, 1999, attended by KwaZulu-Natal agriculture minister Narend Singh and provincial police commissioner Chris Serfontein. The farmers threatened to withhold regional council levies and taxes unless effective action was taken to curb killings and crime. (679) KwaZulu-Natal Minister for Safety and Security Nyanga Ngubane was also invited to attend the meeting and his failure to appear further raised the ire of farmers. (680)

Police detectives arrested suspects in both cases. Twenty-year-old Bonile Mkhize was alleged to have been one of the triggermen during the attack on Bruce Mack. The other man arrested was Mpekiswa Shezi, who allegedly gave the instructions for the murder to be carried out and took the firearms afterwards. (681) The two men were kept in custody for several months, but were later released for lack of evidence, after police shot dead a third suspect in May 2000. (682) Two suspects were also arrested for the Macfarlane murder, but also released for lack of evidence against them. 

The murders brought to a head complaints from many farmers in the Highflats/Ixopo area that the police were ineffective, complaints not followed up, and proactive policing non-existent. 

The Ixopo Community/Farm Watch 

Even before these murders, farmers had established the Ixopo Farm Watch, in May 1997, because of a lack of confidence in the police. As described by farmer Roger Foster in a letter published in the Mail and Guardian: 

The police were, at best, ineffectual--they were under-equipped, undermanned, poorly trained and totally unmotivated. There was no response to complaints, no investigation of crimes, no records of any value and normally no police vehicle--at any of the four police stations in the district. Crime was rampant and becoming worse. Theft of vehicles, livestock, crops, fences, machinery and so on had reached levels where it was becoming difficult to farm. In certain areas it was impossible to keep cattle or grow crops. The farmers of the area decided to do something to remedy the situation before it deteriorated further. Farm Watch was started to provide the police with vehicles and basic equipment, an office with a phone, a computerised database of criminal incidents and additional personnel. Finally one could phone in a complaint, get an intelligible reply and expect an immediate response. Since then, the service from the police has continued to decline, there is still significant loss from theft, particularly stock theft and there have been two farmers killed, but at least we are doing something about it. (683)

Later renamed the Ixopo Community Watch, to reflect its management "considered we had a role to play in the protection of the community as a whole," (684) the organization now operates in four police districts--Ixopo, Creighton, Donnybrook, and Highflats. It has nine full-time employees, a twenty-four hour operations room, and an annual budget of some R750,000 (U.S.$99,000), largely derived from fees paid by farmers and local timber companies. The employees include several former police officers, and all operational staff are police reservists by company policy, giving them full powers as policemen while on duty. (685)

After the two murders, this response was apparently felt to be inadequate, and soldiers were also deployed in April 2000. From April 17, the thirty-man strong Umkomaas commando, based at Ixopo and responsible to SANDF Group 9, Pietermaritzburg, conducted regular patrols throughout the greater Ixopo area. (686) According to the police, the patrols were "intelligence driven" and had "remarkable success" while enjoying "the support of the communities as a whole." (687) The managing director of Ixopo Community/Farm Watch described the deployment as "highly effective in the recovery of illegal firearms and the arrests of known criminals." (688)

Assaults on Farm Residents and Others 

Although farmers may have felt more secure, the local black population was subject to increased harassment and abuse as a result of the army patrols. By the end of 2000, according to the Independent Complaints Directorate, at least sixteen cases of assault were being investigated against soldiers and police in the Ixopo area. (689) Members of the Community/Farm Watch, accompanying the soldiers in their role as police reservists, were implicated in several of the cases. (690)

These cases largely arose from raids carried out on the homes of black farm residents and dwellers in former homeland settlements in search of illegal firearms. A raid conducted on May 30, 2000, involved men in uniform who said they were police and army members but who were allegedly wearing no identification tabs, and two of whom were wearing balaclavas. They searched the home of the Zulu family at eHlani, Creighton, without a warrant, and claimed to be looking for Thabiso Zulu, a young community leader whom they described as "dangerous." They found no firearms. Independent violence monitor Mary de Haas wrote to the police: 

It is alleged that other houses were searched that night, and some people were beaten by these men and have opened cases at the local station. It is further alleged that these security force members have a list of people they are targeting, and that these people just happen to be deemed to be 'ANC' (Thabiso Zulu is not active in the ANC at present). Some security force members (some in camouflage, others in civilian clothes) returned to the area on Thursday 1 June and visited the home of the girlfriend of Thabiso Zulu. He was not there and they allegedly said they would be returning and made veiled threats to her. I have checked with the local police station, including the station commissioner and they disclaim any knowledge of these activities. (691)

In a subsequent letter to the authorities, de Haas wrote that: 

raids by members of the SANDF have continued in this area, with serious allegations being made about damage to property and a variety of human rights abuses. Cases have been opened with the local SAPS. There seems little doubt that, amongst those participating in these illegal activities are members of commando/Farmwatch units. (692)

Similar cases from around the same time were also covered in the Johannesburg Sunday Times. According to reported interviews with eyewitnesses, soldiers had beaten and tortured a number of people during a three-week operation in Creighton. 

Mzwandile Mdladla, 47, this week told how soldiers beat on his door at 1.55 am and demanded that he hand over an AK47. 'There were about eight of them. They dragged me outside and beat me. They kicked me with their boots. My hands were tied behind my back and a rubber was put over my face ... a tyre tube,' said Mdladla. 'The soldiers said they were looking for the gun belonging to Linda Xaba, the son of the induna [headman]. I told them I knew nothing about it. But they kept on hitting me. It went on until they left at 5.20 am. But they said they were going to come back.' He said the soldiers assaulted him on three occasions. The second time they beat him and drove him around the village in a Casspir. A few days later, he alleged, they returned to his house and again beat him. 'There were 13 soldiers this time. They told me to dig holes all over my garden. I was even made to dig in the graveyard. But they found no guns.' They tied his hands behind his back and put his head into a bag filled with water. 'I couldn't breathe. They hit me again. I kept telling them that I didn't have any guns.' The soldiers then took him to the home of the induna [headman], Magesini Xaba, who is now the acting chief of the area. 'They beat him very badly and kicked him all over the place,' said Mdladla. Thabiso Zulu, the secretary of a local community-based organisation, has been documenting the midnight raids, beatings and torture. Two weeks ago, his house was also raided and soldiers stomped on his expensive camera equipment. (693)

Another victim was assaulted in Sibizane near Creighton: 

The police just arrived here and asked for my younger brother. I don't know how many people there were, but there were two police vans and the NU Farm Watch bakkie [pick up truck]. (694) They started to beat me with an open hand, kicking me. They said that they were looking for guns that my younger brother had. Then they just moved away. Afterwards they arrested my two brothers. They were taken to the police station. One was released on the same day. The other has been detained. I've heard they opened a case, but I'm not clear what it is about. (695)

Writing to violence monitor Mary de Haas, Assistant Area Commissioner P.F. Holloway of the Umzimkulu policing area stated that the soldiers involved in the raids carried out on May 30 were from the Eastern Cape, even though they were operating within an area that falls under the KwaZulu-Natal SANDF. Moreover, "The raids conducted in the Creighton area were done without the knowledge or consent of the station Commissioner, Creighton. The presence of the SANDF members in the Creighton area was also not reported by the SANDF to the Station Commissioner, Creighton.... at no stage were the SAPS of KwaZulu-Natal involved or had any prior knowledge of the operations conducted by the SANDF in the Creighton area." (696) Eight cases of assault and damage to property were registered at the Creighton police station following the raids, which "it would appear" were prompted by "Military Intelligence information about a large number of Illegal Arms hidden in the area. No firearms were, however, handed in at the Creighton Police Station." (697) In the case of other raids carried out at around the same time it is not clear, however, as to which army unit was involved. Police involved in investigating the cases lodged against soldiers have struggled to get information from the SANDF, including copies of the reports listing the people deployed on each patrol. (698)

These raids on the areas around Ixopo by the army, police and members of the Ixopo Community/Farm Watch culminated in the death of Basil Jaca, a farm resident in his mid-thirties who reportedly worked with a building contractor. Jaca died on July 2, 2000, the day after he was allegedly sodomized with a rifle during a raid for illegal firearms carried out by the Umkomaas commando accompanied by a member of the Ixopo Community/Farm Watch. The raid occurred at his house on Flaxton Farm, about five kilometers from Ixopo on the road to Donnybrook and about one kilometer from the main road. Jaca and two others, Bhekani Hadebe and Zama Khambula, were assaulted with sticks, and it was alleged that soldiers pushed the rifle barrel up Jaca's anus and attempted to do the same with Hadebe. (699) Others were less badly assaulted. The police arrested six soldiers (five privates led by a corporal) and Community/Farm Watch employee Constable John Arkley, a police reservist and Ixopo resident, about five days after the attack. (700) All seven were charged with murder, attempted murder, and assault. 

Arkley was granted bail of R3,000 (U.S.$395) on July 6, 2000; a separate bail hearing for the soldiers was held on July 17 and 19, 2000. (701) During the bail application for the soldiers, which was not opposed by the state, police captain Bongani Sibiya said that, according to the evidence, the assault had taken place at about 6 am on a Saturday morning. The six soldiers and Arkley allegedly arrived at Flaxton farm in an army vehicle and an unmarked pick-up truck. He stated that the accused visited two groups of homes about 500 meters apart and were reported to have assaulted people at both places. He said that witnesses accused Arkley and Corporal Brandon Eldridge of observing the assaults or being present when they were carried out. In Jaca's case, one soldier allegedly kept Jaca's wife outside their house at gunpoint, while the other four soldiers took Jaca inside. 

Ixopo police inspector Zibuse Gwala told the court that there was no direct evidence that the barrel of a firearm had been pushed into Jaca's anus. However, he said that tests had been conducted and that a sample of a substance believed to be feces had been found on the barrel of a gun and sent for testing. Forensic tests were also being conducted on a jacket belonging to a member of the public that was allegedly used at the scene of the crime to wipe feces off the firearm. Inspector Gwala said that Jaca's wife was called after the assault to wash her husband and found him bleeding from the mouth and anus. He said that on his first visit to speak to Jaca's wife, she was so traumatized that he could not even take a statement from her and that Jaca's family and other people living nearby were very frightened and "some are scared that the army members will come back and kill them." Platoon commander Brent Gerhardt testified that the operation on July 1, 2000, had taken place with his knowledge, but that the army had done nothing to investigate the charges against the six soldiers. 

The soldiers were refused bail by the magistrate, who stated that he was "bemused" that the state had not opposed bail despite community objections, and that was concerned that the state witnesses could be in danger because of the degree of violence implicit in the murder charge. (702) The magistrate said that he would reconsider his decision if the soldiers could be kept in the custody of the military police. When the soldiers appeared again on July 27 the magistrate granted the men R1,000 (U.S.$320) bail on condition that they were held at the military base in Pietermaritzburg. The seven have appeared in the Ixopo Magistrates' Court several times since they were granted bail, though the case has not yet been heard. Arkley was suspended from the farmwatch in January 2001 and later dismissed. 

In March 2001, residents of the Creighton area were still reporting abuses during SANDF searches for illegal firearms. (703)

Community Response to Security Measures 

The Basil Jaca case brought to a head discontent among residents of the greater Ixopo area at the police response to crime. Like the farmers, local black people feel that the police are ineffective in responding to criminal activity in their area. Yet the beefed up security force response has, for them, only increased insecurity. When the seven accused appeared in court on July 17, 2000, members of the community led by Ixopo mayor Themba Louis Mahlaba held a protest outside the Ixopo court building. In a memorandum handed to court officials, the community representatives stated: 

We, the residents of the town of Ixopo are complaining to the local police and Magistrate about the crime rate that has hit our area. Over the past two years there has been countless break-ins, car thefts, hijacking, rapes and all sorts of unlawful callous acts. Out of all these incidents there has been very few arrests. What are the local police doing about it? In July 1999, Mr Brian King was murdered in this town in cold blood by known criminals. The police effected an arrest but in two days after that criminals were walking free again. We demand to know as to how does the local Magistrates Court release them back into the community, criminal who are making life unbearable for the law abiding citizens of our country, residents in this town. In July 2000 a very young Sifiso Msomi was also brutally murdered. Once again their has been no arrests up to this point. (704) Again in July 2000, Mr Basil Jaca of Flaxton Farm was assaulted and sodomized with a gun until he died a very painful death by members of the SANDF who were in the company of local police. In principle we accept that the police and army have a mandate bestowed to them by the constitution to protect our people and country from its enemies including criminals. What we are opposed to is the brutality and barbarism that is employed in carrying out this noble mandate. The actions of the SANDF in this area are typical of those of a foreign army invading enemy land. The SANDF must be investigated and those who are not here to protect us must be removed and investigations must be carried out in all areas where the SANDF has been active and more assistance must be given to the police in their line of duty. We insist that the Reservist John Arkley be removed from the reservist. We demand that the local police show commitment to eradicating crime in this area and we are very serious about this. The drug problem in Ixopo was addressed to the police and this was never attended to either, as the problem is escalating, this is another very serious matter that has to be attended to. (705)

Mayor Mhlaba said that numerous incidents involving SANDF members had been reported to him. These included rape and theft of money. He said that many people were reporting incidents to community structures, but not to the police, who were seen to be part of the problem. The mayor said that the community wanted to work with the farmers, but that the community policing forum was non-existent. (706)

Despite the widespread reporting of the Jaca case, there have been further allegations of abuse by individuals connected to the Ixopo Community/Farm Watch. (707) Gqomoza Mbhele, said to be in his mid-20s, died in hospital on September 5, 2000, after being assaulted outside a Creighton bar on August 25. A witness to the assault, who feared being named, said that he was in the bar with Mbhele and his attacker, who was a police reservist employed by the Ixopo Community/Farm Watch: 

The suspect walked out and then I heard a commotion outside. I saw the suspect and another policeman assaulting a man. They were hitting him with a clenched fist, with an open hand and kicking him. They were trying to put him in the [police] van. Then they began to assault the deceased. They hit him with a clenched fist. He fell and they kicked him. Then they drove off. They came back after thirty minutes and took the deceased away. (708)

Advocate Mdladla, the head of the KwaZulu-Natal office of the Independent Complaints Directorate, stated that the police claimed that Mbhele and others had intervened in an attempt to prevent the arrest of a housebreaking suspect who was being put into the police vehicle. They claim that Mbhele had a fit, fell, and hit his head. Investigations into this case were continuing in November 2000. (709)

Although the creation of the Ixopo Community/Farm Watch may have increased a sense of security for farm owners, the result of the recent assaults seems to have been the further alienation of the black population in the area from the white farming community. As much as the Ixopo Community/Farm Watch states that it tries to be inclusive of the rural community, black residents do not feel included in the structures; indeed, they see themselves as the targets of the increased security measures. One community member, commenting on the assaults, said: 

The Farm Watch is behind this. They think that they have more powers than the police. They use state weapon--R4s and 9mm guns used by the state. They go to the Creighton police station and get tear gas. The Farm Watch sometimes operate with the police and sometimes on their own. They wear jackets that are labeled police. I don't know whether they are a cult. Some people from our community are also involved. There is a certain man--the Farm Watch and farmers visit him at different times. He is alleged to be involved in weapon-smuggling activities. Why are they targeting this community? ... The police take advantage of the people because they know the people are not educated. When we're being harassed by the police and Farm Watch no one cares. When it is them killing us, no one cares. When it is them being killed everyone gives out statistics. All the stories are about the number of farmers being killed. No one cares about the people who are being killed by Farm Watch. (710)


An Evaluation of the Rural Protection Plan 

On the face of it, there is a large area of common interest between workers and farmers with regard to the prevention of crime. Farmers complain of the encroachment of predatory strangers on their land. Given high rates of stock theft, it would appear that workers also have a powerful interest in detecting and reporting the presence of strangers on farms. There can be little doubt that the recruitment of workers into the rural protection plan can significantly enhance its capacity. Its informational capacity, and in particular, the efficacy of its early warning systems, appear to suffer from lack of worker participation. 

Bringing workers into the rural protection plan, however, is fraught with difficulty. A farmer is unlikely to accept the presence in the plan of a workforce he believes is harbouring families who do not provide labour, and perhaps commit intermittent cattle theft. A working family, in turn, that believes it could face eviction at any moment, is unlikely to be a reliable source of information where the farmer's interests are at stake. (711)

There is a clear need for a comprehensive evaluation of the rural protection plan, from the perspective not only of the commercial farming community but also of farm residents and those living in the former homeland areas that surround commercial farmland. At present, the rural protection plan does not adequately meet the needs of farmers for protection, and it has actually increased insecurity for other sectors of the population in some areas. It still shows clearly its origins as a response to demands for action by the commercial farming sector, a response which did not ensure that the plan addressed the concerns of the entire rural population, white and black, men and women, for protection against violent crime. 

The "farmwatch" systems and the use of commandos and private security to protect farming communities has increased security for (mostly white) farm owners. Given the strains on police capacity, the participation in security systems of civilian reservists may be unavoidable. However, in too many cases, local commandos, "farmwatch" structures, or private security companies are simply acting to protect the interests of farmers and not the wider community. Abuses inevitably result, some of them very serious. Even when police officers patrol with the commandos, both state agents, there is little scope for accountability to or control by the wider community. If the police involved are reservists, there is still less control. 

Many living or working in the farming communities believe that the commando system is an anachronism and a recipe for abuse, and that it should be abolished. Others, however, including many of those involved in the rural protection plan at national level, see the commandos as an essential part of the system, and the main reason for the high arrest rate in cases of violent crime against farm owners or managers, due to their rapid response capabilities. However, it is clear that at least some commando units are responsible for very serious abuses, and that training and controls are insufficient to ensure proper discipline. 

In many areas, commando membership has declined in recent years. Among those who have left the state security forces are many who have set up private security companies. Others now participate in private non-profit farmwatch structures. These private farmwatch systems or private security companies are even less accountable than the commandos, reporting only to the farmwatch structures or the people paying them, who may have little commitment to disciplining those found guilty of abuse. The management of the Ixopo Community/Farm Watch, for example, took no disciplinary action against John Arkley for months, even after he was charged with murder. The regulation of private security companies is woefully inadequate. Although proposed new legislation will strengthen the regulatory regime, it could still be improved in several regards. There are currently no concrete proposals for legislation to regulate "farmwatch" or similar private non-profit initiatives. 

The rural protection plan needs to be restructured to ensure that it meets the needs of all residents of the farming communities and addresses public concerns about the quality of police services. However, the answer is not to allow one powerful group to take on the role of the police and operate parallel, essentially unaccountable structures. What is needed is a protection plan that meets the needs of farm owners and far less powerful farm residents alike. 

Human Rights Watch believes that in all cases other than emergencies, police and not soldiers should carry out policing duties. Accordingly, the commando units made up of army reservists should not be involved in policing. Civilians who wish to be involved in policing on a part time basis should be police reservists, and should receive training in policing skills and instruction on the laws of South Africa and respect for human rights, rather than army-style boot camp. Where soldiers are deployed for policing duties, they should not have full police powers, but only those that are required to fill a support role. For example, police should carry out duties such as house searches, even if soldiers are deployed to establish a cordon around the house. This objective should form part of the current review of the Defence Act. 

There would be resistance to this idea among the commandos, for both good and bad reasons. Among the good reasons are the fact that commando members get paid a small amount which, though almost token for a commercial farmer (three to four hundred rands a month), assists to cover expenses and for black employees may form a substantial addition to income; police reservists receive no payment at all. In addition, those individuals who are both members of commandos and police reservists report that the army logistical and administrative systems are simply more efficient than those in the police service. As one commented, "I joined up to be a police reservist three years ago, and did all the courses, but I'm still waiting for my uniform today, I don't even have an ID card showing that I am a police officer. If you join the commandos, the whole system goes quicker." (712) Others note that discipline among the police is a big problem, so that many police have no pride in their job, absenteeism is rife, equipment is not maintained, and so forth, while the army has a stronger public service ethos. The bad reasons include the fact that the police service is now perceived by many white farmers as simply "too black" in its command structures. 

Those in charge of implementing the rural protection plan should take urgent steps to implement a transition from military to civilian policing. Pending this transition, immediate steps should also be taken to bring part-time members of the security forces, as well as their full-time colleagues, under proper discipline and control. All those involved in policing areas must be required and trained to respond even-handedly to reported crimes, irrespective of the color or social status of the victim. Commando units carrying out policing duties should be accompanied by a full time police officer, preferably of middle or senior rank, not a reservist, who should be in command as regards all policing duties. The SANDF should urgently develop an effective internal mechanism for handling public complaints and to ensure proper disciplinary action against those who have allegedly committed abuses. In addition, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), the body responsible for investigating complaints against the police, should be empowered to investigate or oversee the investigation of complaints against SANDF members deployed for policing purposes. The Departments of Justice and Safety and Security should take particular steps to ensure the effective prosecution of cases against individual farmers, private security operatives, or vigilante groups, for example by deploying detectives and prosecutors from outside the area, who would be less susceptible to pressure from powerful local interests, to follow these cases. There should be exemplary prosecutions where particular commando units, farmwatch schemes or private security companies have a reputation for abuse, ideally carried out by the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions (NDPP). 

Stricter controls should also be enforced against private security initiatives, including farmwatch and similar private schemes, to ensure that they do not act as vigilante groups. Government should introduce legislation to regulate such schemes, and work with representatives of commercial farmers and other interested parties to develop a code of conduct for those who participate in them. Private security companies and farmwatch structures should be permitted only to carry out preventive patrols and "citizen's arrests" of persons actually found in the course of committing a crime. They should be required to hand individuals arrested to the police without delay, and they should be prohibited from taking the initiative in conducting house searches for illegal weapons or similar activities, but required rather to pass relevant information to the police. Laws regulating the private security industry should strengthen the provisions relating to the withdrawal of registration for security service providers found guilty of a violent crime or of improper conduct of a serious nature; and should require the police and courts to report to the regulatory authority alleged crimes, charges, and convictions involving security service providers. 

The government should consider merging the structures of the rural protection plan--in particular the Groundlevel Operational Coordinating Committees--with the community policing forums. Under the current system, both sets of meetings are poorly attended, while the rural protection plan is often seen as being for the farmers, and the CPFs for the black community. The new structures should involve representatives of farm owners, NGOs working on land or farmworkers' rights issues, and farm owners. They should also involve women and organizations assisting women, to ensure that issues related to violence against women are addressed. Those attending these meetings need to see results, since in too many rural areas community representatives have stopped attending CPFs simply because they find there is no response from the police, or indeed it is the police themselves who are involved in crime. If the powerful lobby of the farm owners attended the same meetings and put pressure on local police stations to attend to the problems of the black communities as well as their own, substantial progress in creating a common security initiative could be achieved. In the Western Cape, a new structure known as a "community safety forum" (CSF) is being piloted in several areas. The CSFs are chaired by local government, and involve all government sectors--not only the police--in efforts to combat crime. These pilot projects may form a useful model for policing in the commercial farming areas. Trained facilitators may be needed to keep the new structures on track, in order to build trust between different participants and ensure that they actually become a route for ensuring a greater consensus in setting policing priorities. 

The government should also review the collection of statistics relating to violence on farms. Currently, official statistics tend to give greater prominence to crime against farm owners and managers, whereas the real need is for accurate statistics on all violent crime on farms, including assaults on farm residents by other farm residents and by farm owners or managers. Specific crime codes should be established, including, for example, for murders or assaults on farm owners or managers, murders or assaults on farmworkers or residents (including sexual assaults in all cases), and for illegal evictions. A parallel effort to ensure that all reported incidents are correctly recorded by police will be necessary. Human Rights Watch also believes that it is important that the figures for "farms" and "smallholdings" be disaggregated. 

Some formal proposals for a more comprehensive rural safety plan have been made. The Department of Land Affairs in the Free State developed a proposal in 1998--in advance of the national rural safety summit--for "participatory rural safety plans," which was extensively debated among interested parties, but was eventually dropped due to resistance from the Free State Agricultural Union. (713) The proposal placed "farm attacks" firmly within "the underlying socio-political context" of the apartheid past and the continuing massive inequalities of power present in farming communities today, urging farmers to work in cooperation with other rural dwellers. It argued that "the premise on which [existing] safety plans and farmwatch schemes are based is fundamentally flawed," because "emergency reactionary measures will only serve to isolate and marginalize communities." Accordingly the department recommended that: 

Farmwatch groups must constitute part of a greater Rural Safety Plan, where area based partnerships are established as joint ventures between the farmers, farmworkers, commandos, the local police and the district policing forum. They must be assisted by district based Rural Safety Networks which should include the following role players: 

Dept. of Safety and Security, SA Police Service, Local Police Reserve Service, SANDF, Local Commando, DLA District Office and field staff, Local Magistrates Office, Local Municipality--TRC/TLC, District Farmers Association/Agricultural Union, Church Bodies, Farmworker Unions, NGOs, Advice Centres, Constituency Offices of all political parties. 

The role of such a Rural Safety Network would be to ensure that contact between the farmers/farmworkers and the local police could be improved through training and planning.... Such area based Rural Safety Networks would be supported administratively and logistically by a Provincial Rural Safety Network Committee, with a specialised safety person located in the office of the MEC Safety and Security. (714)

Concluding that "Properly managed rural safety plans in which farm dwellers are valued and play a central role need to be developed across the country," the document proposed standard procedures to respond to "farm attacks." 

Less ambitiously, Mike de Lange, a farmer who has monitored violence on farms for several years, has put forward a proposal to the KwaZulu-Natal government for a "security desk" to be established (effectively a funded and expanded version of what de Lange already operates from his farmhouse) to "gather intelligence on all crime incidents and information on pending possible conflict, of any sort, in rural KwaZulu/Natal communities (farms, tribal areas and conservation areas)." (715) The security desk would then convey that information to all appropriate authorities, including administrative structures as well as the security forces, and facilitate proper communication between those authorities as well as the extension of the rural protection plan to those areas where it is not currently operational--that is, the "tribal areas" formerly within the KwaZulu homeland. De Lange believes that "99 percent of the black community is sick and tired of crime too. The rural protection plan won't work unless you include the tribal areas; you need structures for the rural areas to get their problems solved too." (716)

Key to the resolution of the problems surrounding law enforcement in South Africa's commercial farming areas will be the creation of a common understanding among farm owners and farm residents of the priorities in relation to violent crime and the response needed. This will, however, depend on farm owners and residents seeing themselves as having the same interests in this regard, something that will be very difficult to develop in the context of South Africa's deeply divided society. Ultimately, it will depend on a reduction in the stark economic inequalities so obvious in the South African countryside. 

Class, Race, Gender, and Violence on Farms 

The Special Rapporteur is absolutely convinced that without a complete overhauling of the [South African] criminal justice apparatus, the retraining of its members and the creation of a more representative service, violence in general, and violence against women in particular, will never be contained. (717)

In South Africa, the heritage of apartheid and legislated segregation remain potent factors, and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, as elsewhere in society, is a serious concern. (718) Although South Africa has a wide array of criminal laws that are today ostensibly race-neutral (by comparison with the apartheid era laws that criminalized certain activities for blacks only), de facto discriminatory law enforcement practices continue to be a chronic problem. South Africa's criminal justice system is, as was noted in a 1997 report by the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, a product of the system of racial and political oppression operated by former governments. It is also a reflection of a society which, like many others, has historically treated women as second-class citizens. (719)

Consequently, while it is true that the criminal justice system is currently under severe strain due to the country's high crime rate, the state response to violent crime on farms cannot be viewed only in the context of South Africa being generally a violent country. Those living on farms in South Africa are not a homogeneous group. They are divided by their race, gender, socio-economic status, age, and other characteristics. These factors operate individually or in combination to differentiate farm owners and residents--whether workers or tenants--from one another and determine, among other things, their access or lack of access to justice when they are victims of abuse. As this report shows, the criminal justice process continues to give more favorable treatment to whites than blacks. At the same time, race and gender often converge to make black women among the most powerless in society. In such situations, rates of violence against poor black women remain particularly high and largely unremedied. (720)

Because white farm owners have historically had a close relationship to state institutions, including the police and justice system, and continue in many areas to do so, and because they are economically much more powerful than their black neighbors, they continue to have a privileged relationship to the system. White farm owners and white members of the security forces in the rural areas (sometimes the same people), socialize together and often have family links. It is unlikely, as demonstrated by this report, that those same security force members will act swiftly against one of their own, and probable that they will believe the word of another white person over that of a black farm resident. Even where black police officers have been promoted to become station commissioners, the economic reality of rural life remains much as it has always been, and acting against locally powerful figures a potentially dangerous activity. Moreover, a police officer is likely to need the cooperation of white farmers in so many aspects of his or her work--including in some cases the loan of vehicles--that it is easier to turn a blind eye to abuse than to act against it. For the same reasons, complaints by farm owners of criminal activity affecting them usually receive priority attention. 

Continuing racism, racial discrimination, and racial tension combine with gender discrimination to establish complex patterns of dominance and oppression of black women. While violence against women of all races was historically tolerated in South Africa, as in many other societies, by law and custom, violence against black women (whether committed by white or black men) was especially ignored. Under apartheid laws and practices, "Violence against women was perceived as violence against white women, implicit in that the violence was undertaken by black men. As a result, instances of black men raping white women received greater attention and were treated with severity and racist intolerance by the state. One of the consequences was that, for example, far more black men have been hanged for raping white women in South Africa, than have white men been hanged for raping black women." (721)

Even in post-apartheid South Africa, racist and sexist attitudes continue to flourish when it comes to the state's response to violence against black women. All the elements that traditionally put women at a disadvantage--poverty, poor housing, poor health services, a lack of safety and security, poor education, and lack of information--exist on the farms and often compound women's vulnerability to abuse. (722) In addition to all these risk factors, the sole gatekeepers to women's safety on farms are often their employers and male relatives, often the very people who abuse them. Women are not inclined to report such cases out of fear of retaliation from farm owners, managers, and family members. When women report these abuses, local authorities often do not take their accounts seriously. 

The discrimination that black people and women face in their workplaces is directly linked to the daily violence they experience. For example, the acute power imbalance on farms between farm owners and farmworkers and men and women all work to the disadvantage of women. The relationships are divided on racial and patriarchal lines, with women placed near the bottom of the ladder and subjected to violence and abuse by the rest. (723) As one example of the way in which discrimination can lead to violence, some women living and working on the wine farms in the Western Cape complained to Human Rights Watch that they did not receive monetary support from their husbands, whose pay is spent on buying wine. (724) When they complain to their husbands, women are often beaten; because their housing is dependent on their husbands, they cannot leave or take any action to protect themselves. (725) When women on farms are raped, whether by farm owners or by other farm residents, they face barriers when they seek protection that are common to other farm residents but compounded by sexist attitudes within the criminal justice system. And while gender discrimination generally affects all women, white women, because of their race and economic position, fare much better in accessing justice when they become victims of violence, compared to their black counterparts. (726)

Leaving aside issues of racial or sexual prejudice, commercial farms are often remote from urban centers and from the routes covered by "black taxis," the privately-owned minibus taxis used by most black people in South Africa for transportation. Farmworkers and residents are therefore often dependent on the goodwill of the farm owner or occasional visitors for transportation. As a consequence, it is very difficult for them to access police, courts, government medical officers and other services, such as victim support programs, when they are victims of violence, since most of these services are based in towns. Lack of education, a heritage of the years of "bantu education" policies under the previous government and current confusion over the status of farm schools, is a further barrier to obtaining assistance. Often the intervention of an intermediary, such as an NGO worker, is necessary to gain entry to the system. Lack of education also means that farm residents are often unaware or only vaguely aware of their rights under South African law. Farm owners, on the other hand, almost universally own private cars, or at worst have easy access to others who would offer transportation; are comfortable demanding a response from the relevant authorities; have the literacy skills to fill out statements or take action if there is no follow-up response to their complaint; and are kept up-to-date about their rights under the law through newsletters and magazines distributed by the agricultural unions. 

The ANC-led government in office since 1994 has made significant efforts to overcome the inheritance of the past as it affects commercial farming areas. New laws provide legal protections giving a measure of security of tenure to farm residents, and accord farmworkers the full range of labor rights available to other South Africans (themselves extended). But despite these legal strides, implementation of and accessibility to the rights they protect remains very difficult for farm residents in the face of the realities of farm life. Meanwhile, many farm owners feel that the labor market has become over-regulated, and do not see why, in a business context, farm residents who are not working for them should have any security of tenure or other rights to the land. Forcible eviction of farm residents continues, despite the law, while farmers have cut the number of permanently employed farmworkers and increased the use of seasonal and migrant workers, more easily exploitable groups, as a proportion of the workforce. 

The consequence of the combined effect of racial and gender discrimination within the South African criminal justice system is that both male and female black farm residents are disadvantaged by comparison with white farm owners in obtaining a response to their complaints of abuse. At the same time, the additional economic resources that white farm owners have enables them to organize to compensate for the deficiencies of the criminal justice system in responding to violent crime. While some such efforts make a useful contribution to rural security, in too many cases these self-help mechanisms have become little more than vigilante groups acting on behalf of white interests only, despite the race-neutral language used to describe their activities. Though violent crime against farm owners is a serious and relatively new phenomenon, deserving of an effective state response, it should not dominate discussion of policing priorities in farming areas to the exclusion of other forms of violent crime. 

By failing to ensure that police and court officials investigate, prosecute, and punish perpetrators of murder, rape and other physical assaults against black South Africans on equal terms with whites, women on equal terms with men, foreign migrants on equal terms with citizens, South Africa fails to comply with its international law obligations to provide equal protection to all under the law. The South African government is also obliged to ensure that black people and women of all races do not suffer race and gender-based discrimination in the workplace and to remedy such discrimination whenever and wherever it occurs. (727) Assuring nondiscrimination entails, at a minimum, promulgating and enforcing legislation that prohibits such discrimination. South Africa has made great progress in accomplishing this goal. But passing legislation is not enough. The laws must be enforced. Firm steps must be taken to ensure that all South Africans, regardless of race or gender, are protected from violence and other abuse.