top of page

Q: Are farmers being killed at a higher rate than the general population?

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

On the 25th of October 2017, TimesLive published an article titled “Farmers 4.5 times more at risk of being murdered – AfriForum”. “According to AfriForum‚ 156 commercial farmers are killed per 100,000. According to the police’s annual crime statistics released on Tuesday‚ 34.1 South Africans are murdered per 100,000 of the population.”

How did Afriforum come up with that figure? Afriforum most likely took the figure of 50 murdered farmers counted by the Transvaal Agricultural Union in 2016 (which excludes murders of family members, employees and visitors).

They then divide by 32,000 a rounded off figure from a 2007 agricultural census of farmers that who are registered for VAT (To be exact 32,375).

Lastly you multiply your figure by 100,000 to get 156 commercial farmers are killed per 100,000.

There are many problems with this approach. First of all the data is very old. The 2007 census was long ago. Afriforum's supporters refuse to look at the 2003 committee of inquiry into farm attacks which concluded that the primary motive in farm attacks is robbery so why should we cut them a break when they decide it’s okay to use data from over a decade ago to serve their own agenda?

Secondly the 2007 census where the figure of 32,375 commercial farmers comes from did not include all the farmers who make an annual turnover of R100,000 – R299,000 who do not pay VAT and were not counted in this census. They also suffer from crime and fall victim to murder so why leave them out? By leaving them out, the murder rate comes out higher than it should.

Lastly by excluding the murdered family members, farm workers and visitors to farms this analysis misses the bigger picture of what is happening on farms in South Africa. For example, every year we hear about pensioners and elderly being murdered or attacked on farms yet they are excluded from Afriforum’s calculation because they are not big commercial farmers who are registered to pay VAT. It is not just large scale commercial farmers who live on farms and are attacked and robbed by criminals, let’s look at the landscape:

Even Afriforum’s “showcase” farm murder victim* Mariandra Heunis, who was taken to the USA to let the world know about farm attacks on behalf of Afriforum was not the wife of a commercial farmer and would not have been included in the statistics.

In 2017 Africa Check, an independent fact checking organisation found that Afriforum had distributed a statistic (their farm murder rate) that they knew had been calculated in a flawed manner. They asked: “does AfriForum care about getting farm murder statistics right? Because at the moment it is being dishonest.”


The devil is always in the details, If Afriforum wants people to see them as serious about the farm murders cause then they need to be honest with their use of statistics. We think they knowingly miscalculated the figure by not using all the denominators but by using the ones convenient to them – which is not the way things actually work. Knowingly leaving out population groups gives you a higher murder rate and makes a more shocking and newsworthy figure that you can build an entire movement behind.

Afriforum have branded and positioned themselves as “Experts in the field of farm murders” and thus the media did not question the figures given to them by farm attack experts and criminologists Ernst Roets and Lorraine Claasen. We have laid it out as plain and clear as possible in this article that as of today there is no data to suggest that white farmers are murdered at a “higher rate”. People who are saying white farmers are killed at a higher rate are guesstimating, speaking from a “gut” feeling and not using reliable data to support their position.

Sidenote: How was the national murder rate calculated? Firstly to get the murder rate for the total South African population – 2016/17

You take the total homicides counted by SAPS (19,016) divided by total population as counted by Statistics South Africa (55,908,900)

And multiply by 100,000 to get 34 murders for every 100,000 people. *We have nothing against Mariandra Heunis, the murder of her husband was tragic. She was married to self employed cabinet maker Johann Heunis who was sadly murdered on their smallholding in 2016. Here is more detail from the figure of 50 farmers killed in 2016 TAU Stats - 50 farmers killed - 15 family members killed - 6 workers killed - Total: 71 TAU SA does not distinguish between commercial farms and smallholdings. The 50 murders were farm owners across all farms.

Graphic: John McCANN - Mail & Guardian According to a 2017 land audit report, there are 95,673 white landowners of farms and agricultural holdings covering 26,663,144 hectares in South Africa. Why did Afriforum only look at the small population of vat paying commercial farmers for the farm murder ratio? Because using a bigger population group would yield a much lower murder rate and that would not make headlines or strike fear in potential monthly subscribers.

1,599 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page