Farm attackers are usually between 15 and 35 years old, single and unemployed. They usually move in groups of three to seven men.
Criminals have a perception that all farmers have firearms and that the weapons are easily accessible because farmers live in remote areas. The motive for most attacks is robbery or revenge. Usually they seek firearms, money and a vehicle.
Farm attacks are usually carried out with military precision. The attacks are as cruel and brutal as possible. No farmer is too old or too young, too rich or too poor to escape the possibility of a farm attack. According to a study by attackers who serve sentences, the prison sentence does not scare them, but they feel that the sentences are too cruel.
A farm attack has a very traumatic effect on a community. Farmers tighten their vigilance after an attack has occurred in their area, but after a few weeks their vigilance slows down again. Farm attacks are being planned. The farm is watched for three to seven days, and there have been cases where it has been watched for weeks and longer. The attackers do not want to be seen as a group – therefore only one or two members do reconnaissance work.
A method by which attackers get information is to pretend to look for employment. Even if a farmer needs a worker urgently, he must first research the applicant’s background thoroughly. Ask for his name and identity book. If he does not have an identity document, the farmer must not employ the person under any circumstances. Find out where he used to work and speak to that employer. If it sounds like he provides vague or false information, or it does not match the information that the farmer himself sees, a farmer must call the police and sharpen his vigilance.
SCS Recommends: – We suggest that the new person’s photo as well as fingerprints be taken and stored at the farmer’s attorney or anybody else. Also make a copy of the new worker’s ID book and make sure you get as much information about him as possible. You MUST inquire with his previous employers.
Prospective attackers sometimes come to a farm under the pretext that they want to buy agricultural products or tools. This gives them valuable information about the standard of safety on the farm.
To prevent this, the farmer has to shut the gates around the farmyard (which is not always practical) or make a notice at the entrance that informs visitors that the site is prohibited. The farmer must be alert when strangers arrive. When such people approach him, he must always sharpen his vigilance.
SCS Recommends that: – the farmer empower his entire family by getting the correct proactive training. Pro-active training differs from self defence training where you may be taught to disarm a knife-wielding attacker. Although there is a place for reactive or self defence training, we rather advocate pro-active training.
People who plan an attack are nervous and might appear guilty / nervous. Possible signs of nervousness are rapid speech, excessive sweating, aggressive hand movements, eyes looking around fast and fast breathing.
Be very careful with someone wearing a jacket, because weapons can easily be hidden in it.
Another method that criminals use to obtain information is to involve, intimidate or bribe current or former farm workers. Sometimes they threaten the worker or his family members with death. Otherwise they give him money, drinks or cigarettes. Information is also obtained subtly from workers by making them drunk.
A farmer must maintain a good relationship with his workers and persuade them to warn him if a stranger tries to obtain information about him. Offer them a reward if they do. Attackers’ target is often a housekeeper because she is the only one who knows where the safe and car keys are and what the farmer’s and his family’s movements are. Farmers should therefore never discuss their daily planning in front of servants.
When the criminals find out that a farmer is prepared for an attack, they will ambush him outside his farm yard by luring him into an ambush at a farm gate, by pretending that their vehicle has broken down or by setting a fire or by cutting the power supply to the house.
A farm attack is usually planned in advance. But how does a farmer know if criminals plan an attack on his farm? While they are gathering information, they leave signs that a farmer can notice and that makes him aware of foul play. If he knows what to look for, he may notice in time that something is not right.
The information for this article was provided to Landbouweekblad by a farmer from Lichtenburg, Mr. Koos Geldenhuys, who made a study of farm attacks. He consulted many experts in various fields.
The circumstances in which attacks occurred were analyzed by several experts. They look at mistakes made in each case, how it could be prevented and give general safety tips. Readers can use these tips and lessons about farm safety to be more prepared and prevent farm attacks. Villagers and townspeople can also take the safety tips to heart.
The elderly couple in this case study lived just a few hundred meters from their son on the farm. They felt very safe, but the means that secured their home were very inadequate.
In addition to a small puppy and a Marnet radio system in the house, there were no other security measures. A dim light above the front door was the only light. There were no burglar bars in front of the windows or security gates in the house; neither watch dogs on the site or a safety fence around the site – access to the house was therefore very easy.
The couple’s gun was hidden in a wardrobe. With the Marnet system in the house, the couple thought they could call for help immediately if they were attacked. And who would dare to enter the house, as they had a gun and a few hunting rifles in the house? Many people who think so are, however, easy prey.
The couple, in their seventies, were watching television in their bedroom at around eight pm. When the dog started barking, the attackers were already in the house. The dog was very old and could not hear more well. There were four attackers – a fifth one was watching the son’s house. Three attackers had handguns and the other two knives. Everyone was wearing balaclavas.
There was no chance to raise alarm because the Marnet was in the dining room. The couple were tied up with cableties. The attackers then demanded firearms and money, but the old people did not have money. The attackers refused to believe it. Every time the woman said there was no money at home, they hit her husband. An attacker jumped on his chest. The criminals threatened to kill them throughout the ordeal.
The couple’s biggest fear was for their children and grandchildren, because the attackers said they would shoot anyone who was coming. They pleaded and begged the men to quit, but the assault only ended when the man lost his consciousness. They wrapped him so tightly in a thick blanket that he struggled to breathe.
He came to at a point and asked his wife if she was still right. The attackers then kicked him again and tied him tighter, presumably so that he had to smother. The woman was then loosened so that they could rape her, but she started praying aloud and the attackers turned the other way.
She was tied again and then they searched the house for money and firearms. They took the handgun and left the hunting rifles. The television set, radio, clothes and a lot of household items were loaded on the couple’s bakkie (ute) and they drove off.
The grandson in the house next door heard his grandfather’s bakkie (ute) drive away, but he did not tell his father.
The woman spent the entire time she was tied thinking her husband was dead. Later she freed herself and loosened her husband. He lived, but did not breathe evenly. His arms were tightly tied together so that she had to cut the tie around his arms with a pair of scissors. Then she called for help.
The attackers were arrested a week later. One of them used to work at the couple earlier.
After the attack, the couple bought a lot of dogs and fitted burglar bars for all the windows. They still live in fear, because the criminal threatened to return one day should they report the attack. Although they received trauma treatment at their church, they were unable to process the events.