Media Statement: SAHRC probes challenges facing farming communities
15th September 2014
Attention: Editors and Reporters
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has today kick-started a two day National Hearing relating to safety and security challenges facing farming communities.
At the Hearing on Monday and Tuesday at the SAHRC Head Offices in Braamfontein Johannesburg, submissions will be made by a variety stakeholders including the South African Police Service (SAPS); the Departments of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Rural Development, Justice and Constitutional Development; farm owner and farm worker unions; experts and other interested stakeholders.
The Hearing Panel is led by the SAHRC Commissioner Danny Titus, supported by an additional Commissioner and two external advisors.
The Commission decided to convene the Hearing because of the evidence we see in the current crime statistics, complaints lodged with the SAHRC regarding violence in farming communities, media reports and other anecdotal accounts, which all point to the fact that safety and security, and human rights protections in farming communities still remains a significant challenge.
The Hearing therefore aims to assess the progress made by both public and private actors on the implementation of the SAHRC’s 2003 and 2008 recommendations.
These farming communities, often located in rural areas with insufficient access to relevant State institutions, continue to face significant threats to a variety of rights contained in the Constitution, including freedom and security of the person.
In June 2001, the SAHRC instituted a comprehensive national inquiry into human rights violations in farming communities. The findings of this Inquiry included, inter alia, that all forms of violence and crime perpetuated against members of the farming communities constitute human rights violations that should be condemned; that the levels of violent crime that continued to escalate against both farm dwellers and farm owners were unacceptable; that the culture of violence in farming communities operated in an environment of criminal impunity; that the levels of service delivery of the SAPS were poor and ineffective, and as a consequence, criminal acts were under-reported; and that there was lack of agreement amongst stakeholders as to the root causes of violence in farming communities.
However, despite the release of the 2003 report, the SAHRC observed that the levels of crime and violence in farming communities remained significantly unabated and that confidence levels in the legal system continued to subsist.
In 2008, the SAHRC embarked on a second Inquiry into the progress made in terms of security and safety issues, amongst others, since 2003. One of the main findings in that Inquiry was that the underlying cause of farm attacks was predominantly attributed to criminal motive.
The SAHRC has previously emphasised the importance of adopting a holistic approach in analysing the issue. Social relations in the agricultural sector have proved to be complex due to the historic creation of a unique system of employment relations.
As such, all stakeholders of the farming community are entitled to the protection and improvement of their livelihoods, a common interest that both farm owners and farm workers share.
We must emphasise that as highlighted in our previous two Inquiries, the issue of farm attacks and employment conditions on the farms cannot be handled in isolation. The current concerns of farm attacks and the lack of faith in the criminal justice system, are issues that concern both farm owners and farm workers, and thus should addressed in a holistic manner.
Importantly the Commission notes that human rights violations do not occur in isolation from the context in which they arise, and that it is important that all parties and stakeholders are afforded the opportunity to express the rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
In this Inquiry, the Commission has further proposed to adopt the same approach as it did in our 2003 Inquiry, namely, to not apportion blame but to rather understand the causes of the violations currently being experienced by farm owners and farm workers alike, and practical measures that can be implemented to effectively overcome these obstacles.
In particular, it is important for the Commission to:
- Determine the extent to which actors, both public and private, have sought to reflect on the findings and recommendations of the Commission with regard to safety and security in farming communities, and integrate these into their plans, strategies and programmes;
- Identify the factors the factors that contribute to the escalation of safety and security concerns in farming communities notwithstanding the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission
- Propose further recommendations on what should be done to address these violations in such a way as to ensure that human rights of both farm dwellers ad farm owners are protected.
The SAHRC hopes that the findings and recommendations emanating from this Hearing process will provide Parliament and policy-makers with the relevant insight required to improve both government and institutional frameworks, in order to address the structural and systemic impediments currently preventing all members of the farming community from enjoying a life free from crime and violence. For comments email firstname.lastname@example.org [Back]
The Commission will produce a hearing report within thirty days of close of the proceedings.
Issued by the SA Human Rights Commission
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