n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Rural crime in South Africa : an exploratory review of ‘farm attacks’ and stocktheft as the primary crimes in rural areas

Volume 31 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093


Generally, over the years rural crime in South Africa has been largely ignored and/or under-researched by academics, particularly from a criminological perspective. With the recent exception of a focus on wildlife poaching in rural areas (or more specifically the poaching of rhino), and to a lesser extent on stocktheft as a rural crime, most of the attention on rural crime in South Africa has been directed towards the so-called ‘farm attacks’, which have, more often than not, been taken out of context and/or politicised. Part of the problem in researching rural crime in South Africa has been of a definitional nature. For instance, in farm attacks, who are the ‘farmers’ and what constitutes a ‘farm’? An example of the semantic confusion has been the fact that Gauteng Province – the smallest of the nine provinces in land area, but the industrial and economic heartland of South Africa – has the highest number of registered ‘smallholdings/plots’, but many of the owners/residents of such properties live there because of a lifestyle choice and not for any commercial or for-profit-farming enterprises. Also ignored in the analysis of rural crime are many of the ‘other’ victims of farm attacks, namely the farm workers and members of their families. Overall, as a rural crime, stocktheft in fact represents the biggest economic and crime impact on rural economies even though the usual range of violent crimes also occur in rural areas. This article seeks to broadly unpack rural crimes – with an exploratory focus on ‘farm attacks’ and stocktheft – within the context of South African areas outside of the major urban areas, inter alia touching on such aspects as the demise of the Commando System of rural protection and its belated replacement with a National Rural protection Plan in the late 1990s. From a number of the reports on farm attacks it was generally found that the primary motive for farm attacks was robbery and that such farm attacks should be dealt with and policed inclusively with all other forms of rural crime including that of livestock theft, particularly within the structures of the 2011 National Rural Strategy.

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