Mon, Aug

Top Stories

Grid List

Accurate statistics are needed for the SA farm murder debate


The extent of violent crime in the farming community is hard to define without better data.

Recently thousands of farmers, supporters and sympathisers took to South Africa’s streets in an emotional but peaceful protest against the violent attacks on and murders of those involved in farming.

The protest action referred to as Black Monday originated from a call on social media by a friend of murdered Western Cape farmer Joubert Conradie for people to wear black on Monday 30 October 2017 in support of farm-attack victims.

While the initiative had substantial support, much of the public debate was dominated by accusations that it was racist in nature. This was due to the display of the old South African flag by a small number of protesters. The phenomenon of fake news also raised its ugly head, apparently aimed at polarising public opinion further and distracting attention away from the impact of violent crime on those involved in farming.

Violent crime is exceptionally high in South Africa and those who suffer the brunt of it typically live in poor and underdeveloped areas – evident in the extraordinarily high numbers of murders in places such as Nyanga, Inanda, Umlazi, Delft and Khayelitsha.

We have also seen increases in the most serious and reliable violent crime categories of murder and aggravated robbery in the past five years. Since 2012 the number of murders has increased by 22% and the number of armed robberies by 40%. All provinces have experienced a rise in armed robberies with the rural provinces of Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape and the Free State recording some of the biggest increases. It is therefore not surprising that those involved in farming, commercial and otherwise will be negatively affected.

Those living in rural areas, particularly in isolated areas, are particularly vulnerable to armed attacks where help may take long to arrive. In cities, criminals involved in home and business robberies generally leave the crime scene quickly as police and private security responses can be fast. In rural areas perpetrators are able to stay on the property for longer, and are then more likely and able to subject their victims to extreme forms of torture and brutality.

Commercial farmers are well organised and have formed various agricultural unions, and so are better able to publicly draw attention to the way violent crime affects their sector. Because farmers are a relatively small minority in terms of numbers and are often seen to represent a particular sector of society, some people feel they’re drawing attention to their plight only and are unconcerned with what is happening in the larger society.

The lack of government statistics on farm attacks and murders makes it hard to clearly define the extent of the problem. This can largely be blamed on the decision by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to cease publishing statistics on this phenomenon in 2006/7. Then in 2014, the SAPS made a submission to the SA Human Rights Commission hearings on safety in farming communities on farm attacks. Earlier this year, in reply to a question in Parliament, they also released the statistics for 2016/17 which revealed that for some undisclosed reason, while they have the data, they’re not releasing it regularly.

Due to the lack of information from the SAPS, the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TAU SA) established their own capability to monitor farm attacks and murders. AfriForum also developed a capacity for this purpose. While they claim to use the same definition of a farm attack, there are discrepancies in the numbers of attacks and murders, as seen below:









































2017 (until end Oct)





 (Note: SAPS use financial years and TAU SA calendar years)

The issue is further obscured by attempts to place a ratio on the risk that commercial farmers face compared to the national average. However Kate Wilkinson, in her analysis in Africa Check on 8 May 2017, points out some of the difficulties related to accurately calculating a ratio for farm murders, and for the murder of farmers in particular. This article was published in response to an article by this author in Africa Check in 2013, where a ratio for the murder of farmers was suggested as 120.3 per 100 000.  This was arrived at by using the official statistics for farmers involved in commercial agriculture as found by the Statistics SA survey of 2007.

Nevertheless, it is conceded that a ratio for ‘farmer murders’ (as opposed to farm murders more generally) is also problematic since we really don’t know how many of the murdered farmers qualify as ‘commercial farmers’ according to the criteria applied by Stats SA. Further research is under way.

South Africa faces a serious threat with the crimes of murder and robbery. No one is immune from these types of crime and we must find a way to stand together to address this problem. Different strategies may be needed to address the various types of murder.

Society will only be safer if all groups support the development of effective strategies that reduce any type of murder. The response to the recent Black Monday gatherings revealed how far we still have to go to bridge differences. But until we do, the only people to benefit will be those involved in violent crime. 

South Africa’s ‘short-term pain’ or ‘long-term gain’ future


Much depends on the outcome of the ANC’s elective conference – what is the best scenario for the country?

South Africa is at a crossroads. The political choices to be made during the African National Congress’s (ANC) leadership elections on 17 December will determine the country’s economic and developmental future for years to come.

This is essentially a choice between short-term pain (a Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma or #NDZ win) and subsequent long-term gain (the introduction of competitive politics during the 2019 elections), versus short-term gain and long-term pain (a Cyril Ramaphosa or #CR17 win) and the probable continued dominance of the ANC in government. Single-party dominance is seldom a long-term asset, and by 2019 the ANC will have been in power for 25 years.

If #CR17 and his reformist faction win decisively in December, it will probably mean an ANC victory in 2019, as the party will be able to attract disillusioned ANC supporters currently not voting. In Fate of the Nation I estimate that the ANC could obtain a comfortable majority of around 59% of support in this scenario.  South Africa would revert to its average historical growth rate of around 3.4% of GDP over time, although annual rates would fluctuate. 

In his ANC election manifesto published in Business Day in November, #CR17 has committed to a 2018 growth target of 3%. This is only possible if South Africa can avoid the downgrade of our long-term local currency debt ratings by Moody’s in February 2018. That downgrade is virtually assured if Jacob Zuma remains president into 2018 and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba presents the 2018/19 budget. Once South Africa is downgraded, growth will remain constrained for years.

The only way to avoid a downgrade is for the newly elected ANC leadership to recall Zuma in early January, and for the National Assembly to elect a new South African president (#CR17 in this instance) who will appoint a new cabinet, including an experienced and trusted replacement finance minister. 

The more likely muddling-along scenario – which I’ve named after the national soccer team Bafana Bafana – is of a compromise outcome, where #CR17 narrowly beats #NDZ to the top spot in the ANC’s elections. We know the conference won’t immediately proceed with the elections of the other members of the top six (or top nine if the ANC constitution is amended the previous day). This is a scenario where, after the announcement of #CR17 as president, #NDZ is nominated for election as deputy president of the ANC from the floor, and elected as such. The national executive committee (NEC) emerges as a mixed team of Reformers and Traditionalists, and #CR17 will take time to consolidate his grip on power.

The outcome is the bumbling-along, talk-left walk-right governing party and increasingly dysfunctional alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) we’ve seen for years.

Even this divided party would be an improvement on the current chaos within the ANC and in government. Instead of a cabinet comprising people of questionable ethics, proven incompetence and friendship with the Guptas, the Bafana Bafana future is one of some improvements in the coherence of government policy and implementation. This outcome though would be constrained by the need to include prominent figures from the #NDZ camp in cabinet, many of whom are ethically compromised or corrupt. 

South Africa would still be downgraded by Moody’s due to its inability to rapidly agree and implement the obvious measures required to unlock growth. Zuma and his cabinet would probably be recalled in about mid- to late-2018, but too late to improve our short- to medium-term economic prospects. In this scenario, I expect the ANC to get around 53% at the polls in 2019 but to lose Gauteng to a DA-led alliance.

An unlikely, but not impossible, scenario is that of a Nation Divided – where #NDZ and her traditionalist faction within the ANC triumph in the December 2017 elections. Should that victory not be found to be tainted by substantial corruption and subsequently overturned in court, it would result in the elevation to national power of a socially conservative ANC faction, not unlike the current administration. This grouping includes a profoundly corrupt clique who have excelled at patronage and abuse of state resources for private gain.

Under #NDZ, government is likely to emphasise redistribution as the path to growth (unproven elsewhere), and will pursue fiscally expansive policies such as free tertiary education, a higher minimum wage, expansion of social grants, more efforts at land redistribution without compensation and possibly even an adjustment to the mandate of the Reserve Bank. South Africa grows slower in this scenario than any other, partly due to increased debt and because it takes longer for the country to emerge from its ratings agencies downgrade with these policies in play.

The ANC is likely to split early in 2018 in the Nation Divided scenario. The first steps in this direction may already have started with the establishment of a new party, African Democratic Change, by Makhosi Khoza at the end of November – although it is more likely that she’d join a new party formed after a split than lead it. This new party would comprise the rump of the Gauteng ANC and other members of the reformist faction within the ANC defeated during the December 2017 elections.

Critical here is what #CR17 decides to do. It seems unlikely that he’d be prepared to serve under #NDZ.  Would he retire to his farm(s), return to the private sector or lead the split in the ANC? The latter would split the ANC down the middle and open a new and exciting chapter in South Africa’s future.

Even a smaller split, not led by #CR17 but by a smaller faction such as the ANC in Gauteng, would be different for two reasons. First, the new ANC splinter party could probably enter into a governing alliance with the DA in Gauteng after the 2019 elections. Once the ANC loses South Africa’s economic heartland its future is dim. Second, given the damage done to the ANC under Zuma, even a relatively small split within the ANC would pull it below the 50% majority at national level in 2019 and it would require the support of other parties to create a governing coalition.

Looking at the state of votes just days ahead of the elective conference, it is clear that a #NDZ win is only possible through the manipulation or purchase of branch delegates. Even then a Nation Divided outcome could, ironically, be good for South Africa in the longer term if it leads to a realignment of national politics in 2019.

Change is in the air, and may come sooner than we expect – but only if we are prepared for the associated pain.

Creating conditions conducive to stability in Guinea-Bissau


The organisation of elections cannot be considered a lasting solution to the country’s crisis.

Para a versão em Português, clique aqui

The conclusions of this weekend’s 52nd Ordinary Summit of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will be decisive in resolving the political deadlock in Guinea-Bissau.

Despite the three-month time limit given to Guinea-Bissau authorities at the Monrovia Summit in June 2017 to implement the Conakry Agreement, the country’s political stalemate remains. This was concluded after an ECOWAS mission conducted on 1 and 2 December in Bissau, after consultations with the political actors.

The main deadlock to the agreement’s implementation is the appointment of Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló over Augusto Olivais, which wasn’t in line with the agreement. In an interview with Radio France International in November this year, ECOWAS mediator – Guinea’s President Alpha Condé – said a consensual decision on a prime minister had been reached out of the possible candidates submitted by president José Mário Vaz.

The maintenance of Sissoco’s government, despite the expiry of the constitutional deadline for the adoption of his governance programme by MPs and the numerous pleas of the international community calling for the implementation of the Conakry Agreement, has aggravated political tensions.

As the deadlock persists and the deadline for the 2018 legislative elections looms, those responsible for the political crisis must be held accountable. Consultations must resume to find a solution that will allow reforms to be implemented. The organisation of elections cannot be considered a lasting solution to this crisis which should be analysed in the context of the country’s recurrent political instability. The mandate of the National Assembly ends in May 2018, and legislative elections are to be organised in the same year.

In theory, these legislative elections could clarify the political game by leading to the emergence of a parliamentary majority and the formation of a legitimate government. This would also prevent the National People’s Assembly’s mandate from expiring and Vaz from standing as the only actor with democratic legitimacy. His mandate ends in 2019.

In reality, holding an election without the political crisis being resolved, is likely to further divide an already polarised political class and create conditions conducive to results being contested.

The Collective of Democratic Opposition Parties of Guinea-Bissau, composed of 18 political parties, which has been demanding the implementation of the Conakry Agreement for months, says no election should be organised by the Sissoco government, which it considers illegitimate. This position is reinforced by the role played by the Ministry of Territorial Administration in the electoral process, through the Technical Office for support to the Electoral Process (GTAPE). This entity is responsible for voter registration and the establishment of the electoral register, hence the mistrust by the opposition.

Moreover, the stalemate in the National Assembly risks undermining the normal functioning of the National Electoral Commission (NEC). The NEC depends on the National Assembly for the management of its budget, as well as the appointment of its president and the members of its executive secretariat.

Even in a best-case scenario, where parliamentary elections are held despite the institutional crisis and then lead to a clarification of the political game, the risk of a relapse into crisis remains high. This is because the major weaknesses and shortcomings of the institutional architecture are yet to be resolved.

The crisis has had a devastating impact on state institutions because of the inadequacy and vagueness of some of the constitutional provisions governing the semi-presidential system in Guinea-Bissau. This further highlights the need to implement reforms that have been scheduled for several years, including a revision of the constitution and the electoral framework.

There is broad consensus on the need to clarify important parts of the constitution, including the organisation and functioning of political power. There are also many political and civil society actors who advocate revisions to the electoral laws as required by the NEC report drafted after the 2014 general elections.

To find a solution to the deadlock, an additional round of consultations is needed, following the inclusive talks of 2016. This must be done in the spirit that guided the Conakry process. It must be inclusive and consensual, placing emphasis on the importance of implementing the major reforms that the country needs.

In these consultations, ECOWAS – supported by the other international actors of the five groupings involved in the peace process in Guinea-Bissau (the African Union, United Nations, European Union and Community of Portuguese Language Countries) – should adopt a more directive and firm stance. The continuation of the crisis, despite the efforts of national and international actors, clearly shows certain key players’ lack of interest in stabilising the country.

The authorities have not been able to find a consensual solution, despite the three months granted by ECOWAS and threats of individual sanctions. There is little hope for goodwill, and for political actors’ ability to go beyond self-interest. ECOWAS’s failure to respond after the deadline for implementation of the agreement expired is also unlikely to encourage actors to honour their commitments.

ECOWAS’s 52nd Ordinary Summit on 16 December is an opportunity for the regional organisation’s leadership to consolidate its position. Its credibility is at stake.  

A follow-up consultation – which should not elevate the president over other stakeholders, as he is a protagonist in the crisis – should lead to the establishment of a government that includes a substantial number of competent technocrats and individuals who are as apolitical as possible within the current context.

Finally, this process should define, on a consensual basis, an electoral calendar that allows for the adoption of specific priority reforms before the legislative elections. The coupling of legislative and presidential elections in 2019, which would allow more time for the necessary reforms, should also be considered.

Ultimately, such a process should be guided not only by the urgent need to end the current political crisis, but also by the desire to create the economic, social and political conditions that will provide lasting structural responses to the chronic instability that has characterised Guinea-Bissau since its independence.