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S. Africa Farm Murders Reach Record

January 22, 1999

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The number of South African farm residents killed in 1998 rose 70 percent over the previous year to 146 deaths, the South African Agricultural Union said Friday.

There has been a steady increase in the killings since 1994, when democratic elections ended apartheid, said Kobus Visser, spokesman for the union. In that year, 92 people were killed, Visser said.

According to previous estimates, nearly 600 farmers have died in attacks since early 1994.

Preliminary figures show there were 794 attacks on farms in 1998.

Law enforcement officials on Friday said they could not confirm the union’s figures.

Most of the victims are white land owners, fueling charges by the mainly white opposition parties that President Nelson Mandela’s government is not concerned enough about the victims because of their color.

Visser said Friday that a private satellite alarm communications system would soon connect farmers with a special rural reaction unit, police and neighbors. The system is to be tested by late May.

Mandela last year assured frightened white farmers that there was no political campaign to chase them from their farms. But he said some attacks were motivated by revenge for the exploitation of farmhands who still toil under apartheid-era conditions.

The two most recent farm deaths took place Wednesday in North-West Province, when a farmer and his wife were stabbed to death by four men who stole their car. Two suspects were arrested.

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