December 19 2006 at 03:36PM
By Ben Maclennan
Organised agriculture has reacted with anger to the slaying of yet another elderly Free State farming couple, saying it confirms that farmers are among the groups most at risk of murder in South Africa.
Jan Greyling, 67, and his wife Johanna, 63, were found dead in their homestead on Florida Farm in the Trompsburg district on Monday afternoon.
Workers became suspicious when neither came out of the house during the day, and called the police.
'... if my telephone rings on a Sunday afternoon, I shudder to answer it' Southern Free State area commissioner Baile Motswenyane said on Tuesday that Mr Greyling was found with a bullet wound in the head and "multiple wounds".
Mrs Greyling was found in a chair in a bedroom with two bullet wounds behind the left ear.
Motswenyane said it was possible guns were stolen from a safe which was found open in the bedroom.
Two other elderly couples were murdered on farms in the province in separate incidents last month.
Free State Agriculture president Louw Steytler told Sapa that at a government imbizo in Trompsburg two weeks ago, he had specifically asked Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and provincial premier Beatrice Marshoff to speak out in condemnation of farm killings. '... because I know that some farmer in this province has been murdered' "Thus far not one single word has been said about it," he said.
"Every single weekend, if my telephone rings on a Sunday afternoon, I shudder to answer it, because I know that some farmer in this province has been murdered... and we've had enough."
He said the union was already taking government to court over the lack of proper policing along the crime-ridden Lesotho border, and could mount a similar challenge to government over farm murders.
"It is they who govern South Africa; it is they who are in charge of the State machinery and the security forces, and it is time that they govern us properly," he said.
He said there were far more murders per head in the farming community than in any other.
He also said Free State Agriculture was not a "right wing, rabid, racist organisation".
It had been the first provincial union to put a plan on the table for dealing with land reform, and had also been a leader in engaging on black economic empowerment.
The government's inaction on crime was undermining this "voice of reason".
"That is the tragedy of our country," he said.
Director of corporate liaison for AgriSA Kobus Visser said that as a professional group, farmers ran second only to the police in terms of risk of being murdered.
He said that according to AgriSA's unofficial figures, in November and October there were more than 80 farm attacks around the country, involving at least ten murders.
The farming community was a national asset, and that the killings were eroding this asset.
Visser said government should speed up the appointment and training of police reservists in rural areas as part of a sector policing plan which had produced dramatic results where it had already been implemented.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder claimed earlier this year that the murder rate for farmers was 313 per 100 000, more than twice the figure for police.
He also said the likelihood of a victim dying during a farm attack was three times higher than during a cash in transit heist.
Southern Free State police spokesperson Superintendent Motantsi Makhale said the serious and violent crimes unit was working "around the clock" on the Greyling killings.
He said the police had responded to farmers' larger concerns over security, and were recruiting former members of the commandos as police reservists.
"It's not like we're sitting doing nothing," he said. - Sapa