Farm Attacks or ‘White Genocide’? Interrogating the unresolved land question in South Africa
Apartheid South Africa was noted for historical land dispossession, domination by the white group and disempowerment of the black population. Post-apartheid South Africa has struggled to address the land-related structural and physical violence in the country. Despite the implementation of land reform programmes since 1994, land inequality and impoverishment of black South Africans persist. The government’s failure to use land reform as instrument for socio-economic empowerment has engendered frustrations among those craving for land reform. This has found expression in farm attacks and murders. The subsequent instability in the farming sector and the categorisation of farm attacks as ‘white genocide’ have demonstrated the acute dynamics of the conversation, and the urgency to combat farm attacks, ameliorate the racial discourse and resolve the land question. Through unstructured interviews with key actors involved in the land and farm conflicts, the article engages the land attacks and ‘white genocide’ discourses and provides a more nuanced understanding of conflict recurrence in South Africa. It is claimed that unequal access to land and other intrinsic factors account for the destruction of lives and property on farms. It is concluded that, while white farmers are the major victims of farm murder, a conceptualisation of such as ‘white genocide’ does not adequately characterise the reality. One step among others would be for the government to inaugurate a ‘Panel of the Wise’, comprised of wellrespected elders from all races, who would contribute to land reform and conflict-resolution strategies for the farms and agricultural sector.