The United Democratic Movement (UDM) is concerned about the current phenomenon that is crystallising on South Africa’s political - and social landscape, with regards to the politicising of the crises in rural South Africa. Quite apparent, political parties have chosen sides and battle lines have been drawn.

On the one side, the Democratic Alliance (DA) as the champion of the farm owners and farmers, when they announced a rural safety summit in the near future in reaction to the ANC who is “ignoring” the huge problem of farm attacks and deaths.

On the other side, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) as the “guardian” of the farm labourers and the landless - they warned that the people on the ground would resume an “armed struggle” and then immediately washed their hands should this happen and sat back to wait and say: “we told you so!”

The UDM believes that both “sides” have made themselves guilty of political exploitation – either, wittingly or unwittingly, widening the racial divide and this is counter-productive and potentially dangerous.

Somewhere in-between the South African Human Rights Commission is trying to conduct an inquiry into “farmers brutality towards their workers, murders of farmers, shocking employment and living conditions” etc; but according to reports, both farm workers and farmers are equally uniformed about this process.

The UDM believes that both “sides” have legitimate concerns, but politics must be kept out of it - South Africa cannot afford a “rural war”. We often enough read that people had been attacked and/or killed on their farms, or that farm workers had been exploited and/or abused; whatever the reasons for these atrocities – two wrongs don’t make a right. It is clear that our rural communities are held hostage by the current situation and political parties are sitting, not unlike vultures, on the fence waiting for the other “side” to make a mistake and fanning political suspicion.

The UDM has since its inception called for the situation in rural South Africa to be addressed as a matter of urgency. What all the stakeholders in this struggle should urgently realise is that the current fragmented and individual approaches are not working! A common vision amongst all stakeholders and a team effort is the only route to follow.

The UDM specifically calls on the Minister of Safety and Security to urgently act and prevent the safety situation from further deterioration. SA’s Constitution equally protects the rights of all South Africans to be free from all forms of violence and security of the person. When will Minister Tshwete make good on his promises?

The UDM also calls on the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs to step up the process of land reform and make a strong move towards positive redistribution of state owned land.

The South African Human Right Commission’s (SAHRC) investigation still has to prove its effectiveness and hope for success. The UDM cautiously welcomed this inquiry, but would suggest that that the SAHRC actively promote their activities and advocate its transparency that will in turn support their credibility in the eyes of all South Africans.

The UDM calls on political parties to not politicise the issue and exploit the insecurities of our citizens to further their own political agendas. We would also caution agricultural unions from making divisive and inciting statements that only deepens the crisis.

The UDM calls on all the people who are affected by this situation to remain calm and definitely not take the law into their own hands and using their current situation to justify attacking fellow South Africans.

The UDM calls on Government to provide leadership and help build consensus on the critical policies and actions needed to foster sustainable rural growth and to break the cycle of crimes committed against South Africans from rural areas.

The opportunity has arrived for all stakeholders i.e. farm- owners and workers, government, business, unions, to sit down to holistically deliberate a sustainable solution for the future of our country. It is only through the honest and fair participation of all stakeholders that we will all weather this crisis.

Mr Malizole Diko
UDM National Secretary

10 September 2001