Title page for ETD etd-07282008-094048

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Hornschuh, Veronica
Email luvetarc@mweb.co.za
URN etd-07282008-094048
Document Title A victimological investigation of farm attacks with specific reference to farmersí perceptions of their susceptibility, the consequences of attacks for farmers and the coping strategies applied by them after victimisation
Degree Master of Arts
Department Social Work and Criminology
Advisor Name Title
Dr L Davis Supervisor
  • violence
  • constraints
  • complacency
  • modus operandi
  • susceptibility
  • victim
  • farm attack
  • farmer
  • distrust
  • coping strategies
  • farm
Date 2007-09-05
Availability unrestricted
Acts of violence on farms and smallholdings are continuing unabated in spite of the efforts of the government and the agricultural unions to quell attacks on members of the farming community. Although research has been done on various aspects of farm attacks, empirical information regarding farmersí perceptions of their susceptibility to attacks, the consequences that are suffered and the coping strategies that farmers apply after victimisation, is limited to that contained in the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks.

In order to gain first-hand information with regard to this phenomenon, the researcher interviewed 15 direct victims of attacks on a one-on-one basis. All the attacks occurred in the Mpumalanga Province and the adjoining Nokeng Tsa Taemane region in the Gauteng Province.

Based on the analysis and interpretation of the data, it was found that most of the respondents felt unsafe on their farms. In spite of this, they were all taken by surprise by their attackers. While the majority of the respondents believed that their homes were reasonably secure, financial and familial constraints prevented some from improving the guardianship on their farms. Those who had good security systems in their homes, were attacked outside or in the early evening before the systems were activated.

The findings also revealed that the immediate reactions of victims of farm attacks do not differ fundamentally from those of other victims of crime. Reactions include surprise, fear of being killed, injured and/or raped and powerlessness. After the attacks they often experienced anger and bitterness.

Analysis of the data furthermore indicated that physical injuries ranged from minor to serious injuries that necessitated hospitalisation. Emotional and social harm were also experienced by victims, causing them to be fearful and distrustful of black persons, as the attacks were all black on white. Farm attacks also had negative financial consequences for the victims. Capital that might have been used for other purposes had to be used to pay medical and funeral bills and upgrade security, especially since most victims feared re-victimisation.

After the attacks some respondents preferred to relocate. While many of the respondents found it too costly to implement the necessary target hardening measures, avoidance behaviour in the form of alertness was identified as the most effective means of preventing victimisation in the future. Other avoidance tactics included feeding dogs in the afternoon when visibility is still good and sending employees out to establish the reason for the visit of black strangers who arrive on the farm without an appointment.

Erroneous perceptions with regard to the motives for attacks and the profile of attackers, as well as complacency about security which often sets in because of the routine nature of farmersí lifestyle, were identified as the main reasons for farmersí susceptibility to victimisation. It was also found that the respondentsí coping strategies varied. While some relied on their Christian faith and the support of family and friends, others exerted their inner strength to regain their emotional equilibrium.

On the basis of the above findings, recommendations were made regarding further research and measures that might be implemented by both the government and farmers to reduce the number of farm attacks. It was highlighted that factors such as hate speech, socio-economic conditions in rural areas, the acceleration of land reform and education deserve further attention. Farmers must guard against complacency and make informed decisions about security on the farms. As coping strategies vary, it was furthermore stated that victimised farmers need to persevere until they have assimilated the negative experience.

© University of Pretoria 2007

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