Farm murder

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DA’s claim of commercial farmers decline deemed ‘misleading’

Africa Check said that the claim that commercial farmers had declined from 120 000 to 38 000 since 1994 is based on erroneous data.

Farm murder

Image via Adobe Stock

Claims made by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in September suggesting that the number of commercial farmers in South Africa has fallen from 120 000 to 38 000 since 1994 have been deemed “misleading” by a leading fact checker. 

A recent spate of brutal murders on a host of South African farms has led the official opposition to aggressively condemn the violence and endeavour to motivate a response from national government and police services, however Africa Check has debunked this particular claim by DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard. 

DA claim commercial farmers have decreased from 120 000 to 38 000 

Kohler Barnard said on 11 September that “since 1994, we have dropped from 120 000 commercial farmers to 38 000” when condemning what she deemed to be a weak response by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the concerning number of farmers being attacked and killed on farms around the country. 

She said that the massive decline was the result of farming families leaving the country after their relatives and partners are murdered, saying that when a farmer is dragged to his death behind his bakkie – his family just packs up and leaves”.

“When a woman is gang-raped while her husband is stabbed to death – that is what happened to a black farmer and his wife – do you think she has it within her to stay on that farm?”

She also said that there had been 21 murders and 147 attacks in the four months leading up to September, and claimed that farmers are “three times more likely to be murdered than a police officer”.

 Africa Check debunk ‘misleading’ statement

Africa Check said on Thursday 22 October that her first report relating to the decline of commercial farmers in South Africa was inaccurate though, saying that the data she cited does not exist for the specific number of farmers currently working in the country. 

When Africa Check contacted the IRR, analyst Gabriel Crouse first said that the figure of 120,000 commercial farmers in 1994 seemed “excessive”.

Kohler Barnard claim was informed by Stats SA census’, she told Fact Checker, but they said that Stats SA’s data provides figures on the number of commercial farming units – not farmers.

“The 1993 census of agriculture noted that the number of farming units did not represent the number of individual farmers. A single farming unit could be operated by more than one farmer and one farmer could operate multiple farming units,” they said

DA to review research  

They also said that the data, from the national statistics office, showed that there were 57 980  commercial farming units in 1993. The latest census put the figure at 40 122 in 2017. “It is not clear if the two years can be compared due to the different definitions of ‘commercial farm’ used.”

“We rate the claim misleading,” they concluded. “It cites an unsubstantiated figure for the number of commercial farmers in 1994 and then compares this to farming units in 2017.”

Africa Check contacted Kohler Barnard to explain our findings and said that she indicated that she would review their research and use it to inform her statements on the issue going forward.