Kate Wilkinson COMMENT: Does AfriForum care about getting farm murder statistics right?

Kate Wilkinson asks why a minority rights advocacy group has knowingly shared a flawed statistic on farm murders in South Africa.

“Can I speak to Kate Wilkinson?”

That’s how a call to our office began on Monday. Our receptionist told the caller I wasn’t at my desk – I was actually on Radio 702 discussing farm murder rates.

When he heard I was unavailable, the caller started shouting down the line about my research on farm attacks.

“Murderers!” he screamed. “Murderers!”

Another march to protest farm murders

This Saturday AfriForum, a non-governmental organisation which seeks to protect “the rights of minorities” with “a specific focus on the rights of Afrikaners”, will march to South Africa’s Union Buildings. It plans to deliver a memorandum about farm murders and attacks in South Africa to the president.

Last month, thousands of protesters gathered around the country in a similar protest called “#BlackMonday”.

Deputy CEO of AfriForum, Ernst Roets, claims that “farmers are tortured to death on farms in unusual ratios”. The “ratio” that he refers to is the farmer murder rate, presented as the number of farmers murdered per 100,000 of them in South Africa.

I have seen a number of different farm murder rates during my time at Africa Check.

There was the 133 per 100,000 cited by the Freedom Front Plus’ Pieter Groenewald. The African Christian Democratic Party’s Steve Swart and the Institute for Security Studies’ Johan Burger pegged it lower at 97 per 100,000.

Calculating farmer murder rate ‘near impossible’

AfriForum added a new farmer murder rate last month.

Their new rate of 156 commercial farmers being murdered out of every 100,000 in the country was reported on by Times LIVE. The news story claimed that “commercial farmers are 4.5 times as likely to get murdered as the South African population as a whole”.

In May this year, I spoke to numerous crime experts, the South African police and trade unions to determine if any farm murder rate was accurate. The conclusion? The numbers being circulated are flawed and we don’t have enough data to calculate an accurate estimate. At the moment calculating a farmer murder rate is “near impossible”.

This is because there are numerous problems with the data. One: farm murders are probably undercounted, experts say. Two: we don’t know exactly how many farmers there are in South Africa and therefore we can’t calculate the rate.

That farmers are victims of violent attacks is not in question. What is in doubt is their risk in relation to the average South African.

Distributing flawed stat – knowingly

So my first reaction when I saw AfriForum’s new commercial farmer murder rate was curiosity.

“How was it calculated?” I thought. “Do they have access to new data?”

I emailed Roets. Curiosity turned to dismay when he responded.

Roets told me that their new statistic “is the same calculation that was already dealt with on Africa Check [sic], but calculated for the year 2016”. In other words, they’ve distributed a statistic that they know has been calculated in a flawed manner.

Roets did not respond to further questions on the calculation of the figure.

Farm attacks are horrific

If I had been in the office to take that angry call on Monday I would have said the following:

I have great sympathy for the dangers people in rural areas encounter. I know too well the fear that these communities face.

I grew up on a farm in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. I know people who have been brutally tortured in farm attacks. In one case, a family friend had the soles of his feet boiled off. He is always in my thoughts when I work on this topic. It’s an image you cannot erase from your mind.

Saying that accuracy and statistical honesty is important is not the same as saying that farm attacks aren’t horrific.

My question is: Does AfriForum care about getting farm murder statistics right? Because at the moment they are being dishonest. They are knowingly sharing numbers that have been calculated with a flawed methodology. They have admitted as much.

Africa Check has meticulously collected and published the available farm murder and attack research, but as with any topic we research, we don’t have the monopoly on it.

Our aim is to enable accurate and informed debate – and advocacy – on the topic. The best publically available data is easy to access and understand in our factsheet. We explain what the research can and can’t tell you in my analysis.

If AfriForum truly cares about their cause they should care about getting the statistics right. They need to be honest with numbers. They need to be honest with the public.

Additional reading:

LISTEN: Bongani Bingwa interviews Kate Wilkinson on farm murders and attacks in South Africa

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Comment on this report

Comments 9
  1. By Alta van Rensburg

    Why do you divert the subject. It is not about stats. It is about MURDER!!!!
    if our government was productive and capable, the statistics would have been available, but no, now you try and crucify AfriForum. What is wrong with you?

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  2. By Chris du Plessis

    Africa Check has no facts on farm murders either.
    And so far they went out of their way to misinform the public on farm murders or any other stats that have whites as victims.
    Africa Check is in fact just creating more fiction and fewer facts……
    In South Africa crime stats are not available on a racial basis, but employment stats and just bout everything else that benefits the black majority governments racist agenda against whites, are race based. …why is this ? what are they hiding? … why does Africa check not adress these facts in stead of sowing more mistrust among those who try to make scene of it …
    You are part of a race problem in SA by not pointing out who the perpetrators are …

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  3. By H KUHN

    What are you trying to get to by arguing about the correctness of the relevant figures on farmers. Will you be satisfied by the sentence ” higher than 20, 50, 80″ or whatever. Do not build your argument around the correctness of statistics, stick to the issue at stake, let us all work on possibilities and solutions.

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  4. By Hanru Niemand

    Though I agree with your central thesis here (that political organizations should not knowingly use flawed statistics), your treatment of the topic has also become a tool to unfairly discredit the concern about farm murders. ‘We don’t know the true stats’ has become ‘they’re making a fuss out of nothing’. This could have been avoided. By using the numbers we do have to our disposal (eg commercial and vat registered farmers and then investigating which of the murders would count as a commercial farmer being killed, you would arrive at a valid statistic of commercial farm murders. Not the whole picture, but enough to give an indication of the problem. My hypothesis: the number by Afriforum would be an exaggeration, but the murder rate would still be higher than the national average.

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  5. By Johann Scholtz

    I do not really understand the argument here. The fact is that horrific murders are committed against farmers, whether that is higher or lower than the general murder rate in SA is beside the point. I still fail to understand why it is racist if farmers protest against the murder of farmers. If residents of the Cape Flats protest against gang related murders in their community nobody expects them to be “inclusive” in their protest and refer to all murders in SA.

    Just because the relative ratio is hard to calculate, does not mean farm murders are not a problem.

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  6. By Pieter Cloete

    Clearly biased reported by an uninformed member of your staff.
    Check the “checker”. Afriforum is in touch with what goes on on farms, much more than your two so-called informed writers of this report. We must really question the Journalism Department of Wits for objectivity.Please do not take police stats as authorotive.

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  7. By TdL

    What was the point of that introduction? That little story at the beginning?
    Oh yeah, it’s there to influence your readers, to create the impression that the whole farm murder thing = hysteria. Then you talk about AfrifForum, the organisation trying to bring attention to farm murders.
    Your attempt at influencing your readers only highlights your own bias.

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  8. By Shay

    Thank you for bringing just the tip of the iceberg of lies forward in this single act of blatant dishonesty. If nothing else, it shows AfriForum is now nothing more than another puppet to the SA Deep State agents.
    Though the rest of the truths on this ‘campaign’ of lies and deception will soon engulf the perpetrators and public alike. This white farmer murder story is a psy op. One of many in this country designed to spread the propaganda of SA whites as victims – both here and abroad. Purpose being to continue engendering fear and thus, separation between races.

    This particular campaign started some years back when Steve Hofmeyr and Sunette and others soul-ed themselves to the campaign in exchange for personal enrichment. That’s included numerous foreign ‘spokespeople’ since, found all over the net parroting the same dishonesty on the topic. Most recently being the Australian’s diatribe in response to Malema’s land issue, as an extension.

    As for these commentors: they are clearly heavily invested into the self same agenda of victimhood and/or deception. The latter being paid agents who indirectly/directly work for the same SA deep state branch of global psychopaths.

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  9. By David

    Africa Check is violating their mandate of providing non-partisan and unbiased fact checking.

    In an issue where there is TOTAL absence of crucial information, they can neither validate NOR DISPUTE a claim. They therefore have to be very careful not to show bias towards either points of view… and should clearly state this

    In their reporting and in the 702 interview it is/was plainly obvious that they are partisan in this issue and are more focused on DISPROVING opinion that Farm Murders are a targeted hate crime against a minority cultural group in SA. No where do I see the same intent to DISPROVE those opinions who state this is not a targeted hate crime against a minority cultural group.

    If Africa Check could provide the following CRUCIAL information, then perhaps they have authority to state an opinion either way…

    For example… If I made the statement there are NO UNDISCOVERED animal or fish species on this planet. Could this be factually be validated or disputed? The answer is NO… neither validated nor disputed as our oceans have only been partially explored.

    So as SAP only have one category of murder on record in spite of special circumstances I.E. Murder full stop! Can Africa Check there explore murder facts and data… Can recorded murders be placed into 7 murder categories and 3 manslaughter categories?
    I.E…
    MURDER:
    1. Aggravated First degree murder — Where there is heinous torture and rape prior to killing and/or intensely cruel method of killing.)
    2. First degree murder – highest level of premeditation and indifference to the victim
    3. Second degree murder – There was a definite intent to harm but not necessarily
    kill
    4. Third degree murder – The death happened as a result of indifference or neglect
    5. Fourth degree murder – Used to charge the accomplice in a homicide
    6. Aggravated felony murder – the (non-participant) victim dies during the
    commission of a crime which is considered a felony
    7. Justifiable Homicide (as in self-defence situations) is a murder classification but not
    a charge, because there would be no case to answer.

    MANSLAUGHTER:
    1. Manslaughter – implies no specific intent to kill.
    2. Involuntary Manslaughter – perpetrator was engaged in criminal negligent
    behaviour but didn’t intent to take a life.
    3. Voluntary Manslaughter – when someone takes a life during circumstances that
    altered the killer’s behaviour beyond their control (crimes of passion).

    Can Africa Check show racial information of victims per different category of murder.
    Then show murders (plus category) that occurred on COMMERCIAL farms (plus racial groups).
    Then show murders (plus category) on informal farms and small holdings (plus racial groups).
    Then show total murder NUMBERS in rural areas (plus category and racial groups).
    Then show murder NUMBERS in urban areas (plus categories and racial groups).
    NOTE: Show murder NUMBERS not just veiled stats or x Number per 100K population.
    Then show conviction rate of perpetrators per murder category.
    Then show factual proof of motive of murder… for eg Robbery is almost always cited as the reason when no proven domestic violence. Is this fact… or can robbery perhaps be the secondary action?

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