Farm murders

Power outage!

The area I live in currently (from mid November) has no phone, routers or broadband. And mains electricity power was off for 48 hours. An Amazon van crashed and demolished local power-lines and phone lines. Apologies for the very late posting because of this. Router and broadband facilities and phone lines are not likely to be replaced until the first week in December earliest, we are informed, although mains electricity was eventually restored after two days. Blogs etc will be posted when I am in Edinburgh. This is by no means straightforward to schedule, due to train strikes and other disruptions due to engineering works.

Farm murders

‘Farm murders’ in South Africa are typically seen as where a white farm owner and family are killed in a horrific way sometimes involving torture by black farmworkers or others coming from outside; and in South Africa they are often seen as the essence of racialised black/white relationships of an extreme negative kind. Such murders indeed represent a vision that has haunted white South Africa for generations, the return of the black repressed exacting vengeance, with white farm owners politically targeted because they represent the boss man and his racism.

A powerful and dystopian view. The only problem with it is that it is not correct because it ignores the context in which such events take place, as a most excellent book by Nechama Brodie argues using detailed evidence, including a focused look at media reporting. This context is the endemic violence of South African society, with violence embedded in the structures of everyday life and relationships, and taking this into account shows that farm murders are not disimilar from other murders and linked to a wider set of violent behaviours. Rather than targeted attacks involving politically motivated cadres, they are motivated usually by theft, facilitated by the remoteness of many South African farms and homesteads, and the people (nearly always men) who do these terrible acts are fairly ordinary and live lives characterised by violence generally. Putting the farm murders and the behaviours involved in them in this wider context shows a continuum rather than something separate. Just as terrible and in some ways more so. Nechama Brodie’s book is important reading.

Nechama Brodie. 2022. Farm Murders in South Africa.Johannesburg: Kwela Books.

Last updated 18 November 2022


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