Violent attacks on people living and working on farms in South Africa frequently make local and international headlines. Verified information on farm attack statistics has been made available by Africa Check.

Firstly, it is important to define the term farm attack clearly when talking about statistics. A property needs to be involved in agriculture for an attack or murder to be flagged as an act “of violence against persons on farms and smallholdings”, the police’s Rural Safety Strategy states. Sometimes attacks and murders are reported as farm attacks and murders by the media when they do not meet the police’s definition.

The South African police collected and released statistics on farm attacks and murders until 2006/2007 but did not release statistics again until 2010/2011. The latest police figures for 2016/2017 show that there were 638 attacks on smallholdings and farms, with 74 people murdered.

Two figures are needed to calculate a crime rate: the number of cases and the population affected. The police’s latest statistics show that there were 74 farm murders in 2016/2017. According to the official definition, the victims could include people “residing on, working on or visiting farms and smallholdings”. Experts say that estimating this total population is difficult, if not impossible.

“It is likely that many of the figures for farm attacks and murders on farms collected by organised agriculture or the SAPS for that matter, would not contain all the attacks or murders of non-farmers.” Gareth Newham, head of the crime and justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies, told Africa Check. Africa Check