n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Farm attacks in South Africa - incidence and explanation

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One of the most difficult crime problems with which the government, police and South African community are confronted is the ever-increasing number of attacks on farms and small holdings. The reason for these attacks is unclear and the research being done provides divergent explanations.

The concept "farm attack" is a comprehensive concept which covers various actions which are directed at causing damage and pain to farmers and their dependants, workers, property and possessions. A farm attack is a situation in which the inhabitants of a farm are physically attacked with a specific objective in mind. This objective may be to murder, rape, rob or to inflict physical harm.
Statistics show that since 1991 there have been nearly 5 000 farm attacks in which more than 900 farmers have been killed. Between 1997 and 2000, farm attacks in Gauteng increased by nearly 600 percent. In 2001 there have been 100 victims in 800 attacks.
The dynamics of farm attacks are much more complicated than is usually believed. Although many farm attacks may be of a criminal nature and are often ascribed to existing socio-economic conditions, particularly in rural areas, there are certain trends and patterns which point to particular internal motives. Those who try to ascribe farm attacks to a single cause are simplyfing and underestimating the complexity of the problem.
It is clear that there are a variety of different opinions regarding and research findings on the causes of farm attacks and that it would be extremely naive to attempt to explain the phenomenon on the basis of one particular criminological theory.
For the purpose of this discussion farm attacks will be looked at from both the perspective of the conflict theory and the anomie theory.


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