The plight of South Africa’s farmers caught the attention of local politicians recently when Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton suggested white farmers were being persecuted and deserved “special attention” under Australia’s humanitarian immigration program.
Defending Mr Dutton’s comments, former prime minister Tony Abbott told 2GB’s Ray Hadley “there is a very serious situation developing in South Africa. Something like 400 white farmers have been murdered, brutally murdered, over the last 12 months”.
Mr Abbott made his claim on March 19, 2018, four days after Senator David Leyonhjelm urged Australia’s immigration and foreign affairs ministers to help South Africa’s farmers.
In letters to both, he said: “In the last year more than 400 white farmers have been killed.”
Were 400 white South African farmers murdered in the last year? RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.
Mr Abbott’s claim is baseless.
There are no official statistics available for the past 12 months.
The most recent police statistics show that 74 people were murdered on farms in the year to March 2017.
That figure is well below the 400 claimed by Mr Abbott. Moreover, it includes all farmers, workers, families and visitors and all races.
More recent figures, which identify white farmers, are available from the Transvaal Agricultural Union, a group representing the interests of farmers.
According to their figures, there were 84 farm murders in the 2017 calendar year. Of these, 59 victims were white farmers.
A further 15 people, including 8 white farmers, were killed on farms in the first three months of 2018. That means fewer than 70 white farmers were killed in the last 15 months.
The police’s latest data does reveal a rise in farm murders compared with the previous year, as does the union’s data.
However, experts told Fact Check that these changes reflected a general increase in murders across the entire South African population since 2012.