Briton Chris Preece latest victim of South Africa's farm murders
Londoner hacked to death and wife left seriously injured in latest attack on white farm owners
THE MURDER of a British man, Christopher Preece, on a South African farm at the weekend has reignited a debate about the alleged "genocide” of the country's white farmers.
Fifty-four-year-old Preece, a geologist from Southgate, North London, was hacked to death with knives and machetes on his Fleur de Lis farm in Ficksburg Free State, near Bloemfontain, on Saturday night, but the news only emerged yesterday.
He had gone outside to look for his dogs, which are said to have been poisoned by his attackers. Waylaid by three armed men, he fled for his home but was followed inside and killed.
Preece's 56-year-old wife Felicity was stabbed, thrown against the wall and left for dead after sustaining a skull fracture, reported South Africa's News 24 website. The attackers, said to have come over the border from nearby Lesotho, fled with a mobile phone and 3000 SA Rand (about £211).
The death prompted the leader of the country's Christian Democratic Party, the Rev Theunis Botha, to accuse the government of an "inability to deal with the scourge of farm murders”, the South African Independent Online reported.
The issue of farm murders in South Africa is a controversial one, with race at its core. It has been claimed by some, and denied by others, that white farmers are targeted for political reasons. The highest profile killing was that of Eugene Terre'Blanche, the white supremacist hacked to death on his farm in 2010.
Dr Gregory Stanton of internationally-respected organisation Genocide Watch, has even gone so far as to suggest that the farm murders show worrying signs of being genocide, South Africa's state broadcaster SABC reported.
Back in 1997, the South African government admitted farmers were "uniquely” targeted in violent and murderous attacks and set up a defence force to protect them – and the country's food production. The situation was serious enough for the government to start publishing annual statistics on farm attacks.
But in 2003 a study found that there was no evidence of a political motive behind the crimes, with 89.3 per cent of attacks being simple robberies. President Thabo Mbeki then closed the special ‘commando' unit which had protected farmers, transferring responsibility to the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Since 2006/7, however, the SAPS has no longer maintained separate statistics on farm murders, with the result that the scale of the problem is now completely unknown.
Earlier this year, the country's race relations body, the SAIRR, announced that farmers were now no more at risk than the general population. Six days later it changed its tune, saying on 11 October that farmers were in fact "twice as likely” to be murdered.
National police commissioner Riah Phiyega has recently promised that specialised rural protection units will be introduced – and South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has pledged to keep her to that promise.
Christopher Preece's daughter-in-law Jeanne Preece, meanwhile, was quick to point out that her British father was a geologist, not a farmer. He spent his working week in Johannesburg, returning to the farm only at weekends.
She said Preece had hoped to turn the farm into a nature reserve and rehabilitation centre for injured cheetahs and owls, adding: "I tell people this wasn't a farm murder! He wasn't a farmer. He was in love with this land.”