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28 mins 48 secs








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On the sprawling maizefields outside Johannesburg, the Engelbrecht family knows the full horror of the farm attacks that are so commonplace they no longer rate a headline.



Last Mother’s Day Jo-an Engelbrecht was expecting his elderly father and mother for lunch. When they failed to appear, he walked up to their house.



“They were tied. My dad was lying on his back, my mother was lying face down. Their throats were slit, they were tortured,” he says. The killers had extracted the keys to their safes and cars.



“My dad knew it was coming. We all know it’s coming. It’s just a question of when,” says Jo-an.



The old couple were duly added to the tally of farm murders that some Afrikaners believe are part of a wider political campaign to drive them off the land. While the numbers – some say 47 last year, others say 84 – are in dispute, there’s no argument that the crimes are horrifying.



But as Jonathan Holmes reports, they pale beside the nearly 20,000 South Africans, black and white, who were murdered in 2017 alone.



In this confronting report, Holmes asks whether the killing of white farmers is just a tragic fact of life, and death, in one of the world’s most violent societies - or whether it is indeed politically or racially motivated.



The siege mentality of white farmers is magnified by radical politicians like Julius Malema. His Economic Freedom Fighters party sprang from the country’s chronic failure to deliver land to landless blacks.



“We are taking the future into our own hands,” he tells a rally of dancing followers in their red berets. Then a chant: “Shoot to kill! Shoot to kill! Pow, pow!” as he pulls an imaginary trigger.



Recently Malema wedged the governing ANC into supporting expropriation of land without compensation. So far, the government has not seized any farmland without paying for it.



But white farmers say that already the private market for farmland has collapsed. “Why would you buy a farm if tomorrow the government is going to take it?” asks Jo-an Engelbrecht.



For now, Engelbrecht is digging in on his farm in the faint hope that President Cyril Ramaphosa can stabilise a country wracked by crime and corruption after a decade of Jacob Zuma’s rule. But for his daughter Tessa, her grandparents’ murder was the final straw. She wants out – maybe to Australia, if those hints of fast track visas materialise. “I wouldn’t think twice if I got the chance,” she says.


Drone shots. Montage intro




JONATHAN HOLMES: Apartheid tore South Africa apart.  Some say the white oppressors are now the persecuted.  White farms are being robbed and farmers murdered.

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “Not only do they kill,



but the way they kill.  They torture you”.


Intro montage




JONATHAN HOLMES: The government says they’re crimes like any other, in a society where poverty breeds violence.

RONALD LAMOLA: “There is crime,



which is affecting everyone, whether black or white”.


Intro montage – Night patrol

JONATHAN HOLMES: Their victims claim that behind the farm attacks is racial hatred, stirred up by politicians.



ERNST ROETS: “We’ve been murdered for some time, now they’re going to take the land as well and I think it’s very hard to conclude that there’s not a racist motive”.





Malema ally inciting crowd

JULIUS MALEMA: “Shoot to kill!  Pow… Pow!”



JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “This is hate.  This is political hate”.



JULIUS MALEMA: [at a rally] “You must say enough is enough, we are taking the future into our own hands!”


Title: Foreign Correspondent






Vaal River, South Africa



Title: Bloodland



Holmes standing on bridge. Super:
Jonathan Holmes



Drone shot. Vehicle crossing Vaal River

JONATHAN HOLMES: A hundred and eighty years ago, Afrikaner farmers, the Boers, crossed the Vaal River with their ox-wagons and flocks.  They bought off or fought off the scattered tribes that lived across the river.  A century later, any black landowners that remained were forced to leave.  Under the policy of apartheid, the only blacks who were allowed to live here were workers on the white men’s farms or in the white men’s mines.


Conserv volunteers training exercise




Now, it’s the Boers who are feeling under siege.



TREVOR ROBERTS: [drill with volunteers] “Keep your barrel on the target.  I want as many barrels pointing at windows as possible”.



JONATHAN HOLMES: When a farm attack is reported, armed civilians often arrive long before police.



TREVOR ROBERTS: [drill with volunteers] “I haven’t heard anybody shout, ‘Is there somebody in that house?’ Have we got a victim there?”

JONATHAN HOLMES: The guns aren’t loaded, but this training exercise is deadly serious. There might be survivors in the house in desperate need of help.  But the criminals might still be in there too.



TREVOR ROBERTS: [drill with volunteers] “Okay gents what you did here was better than when you were coming through that door”.

JONATHAN HOLMES:  Trevor Roberts’ security company, Conserv, used to specialise in guarding wildlife against poachers.



Now, deterring and responding to violent robberies on isolated farms is his company’s core business.



A gun battle, he says, is the last thing he wants his volunteers to face.







Roberts with Holmes

TREVOR ROBERTS: “The ideal situation is to rather get the perpetrators out of the house and into the fields”.

JONATHAN HOLMES: “So you’d rather scare them away?”

TREVOR ROBERTS: “Rather scare them away and run and our objective is to save a life, and that would be the victim”.


Drone shots maize fields




JONATHAN HOLMES: An hour’s drive south-west of Muldersdrift, on the maize fields around Fochville, on May the 13th this year, nobody was scared away and nobody’s life was saved.


Interiors farm house with smashed walls



Photo of Fanie Engelbrecht on sideboard

78-year old Fanie Engelbrecht didn’t have time to call for help.  When Fanie and his wife Colleen didn’t show up for a Mother’s Day lunch, his son, Jo-an strolled 300 metre up the track to his parent’s house to investigate.


Jo-an with Holmes outside house

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “When I came here my dad’s vehicle was standing here like he was already back from church, nothing unusual.


Jo-an and Holmes into house

And I went into the house.  As I entered into the hall here, there was a lot of blood lying on the floor here and I immediately realised that something is wrong. 


Smashed door, into study

This is the door they actually broke down to get to the study and I found them lying there, tied together, next to each other”.





Holmes and Jo-an in study

tied together?”

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “Yeah they were tied.  My dad was lying on his back.  My mother was lying face down, hands tied behind her back.  My dad had a big gaping hole like the size of a golf ball in his throat.  There was a pool of blood here, all over.  When I touched him, he was cold already.  My mother was lying face down but she was still hot.  But I couldn’t feel a pulse. Their throats were slit.  They were tortured here.  I found an iron cord around my mother’s neck.  She was obviously… they tortured her and yeah”.

JONATHAN HOLMES: “Why do you think they would have done that?”


[shot continuous]

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “I think they wanted the keys for the safes, they wanted the keys for the vehicles and they tortured them to get that information out of them”.

JONATHAN HOLMES: “And then they killed them anyway”.

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “Then they kill them, yeah,  when they’re done.


Jo-an and Holmes

My dad always said it’s not if, it’s when”.


JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “Yeah.  He knew it’s coming.  We all know it’s coming.  It’s just a question of when”.


Holmes Jo-an and Tessa on verandah

JONATHAN HOLMES:  When Jo-an called his wife Sua to tell her the grim news, she could barely speak to their daughter Tessa.






TESSA ENGELBRECHT: [subtitle] My mother had no words, so I asked her, ‘Mama, what’s going on? Tell me what’s happening’ because she was torn apart when my father phoned her.  All she could get out was, ‘Grandpa, Granny, murdered’.  I just collapsed.  I just cried and I didn’t know what to do.



I was very close to them and they were both wonderful, gentle people, children of the Lord”.



JONATHAN HOLMES: “Aren’t you frightened to live here?”




I don’t know when I go to my room whether it will be my last day.  I don’t know if I am ever going to wake up again”


Jo-an with neighbour inspecting security fence

JONATHAN HOLMES:  Belatedly, with the help of his neighbour, Jo-an Engelbrecht is installing electrified security fences around his farmhouse ,mainly to assuage the fears of this wife and daughter.

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “I’m doing it because it might make them feel safer, but I know for sure that if they want you, they will get you outside. 



You can build a prison around your house, but at some point, you have to leave that prison and go out and farm.  And that’s where they get you”.


Engelbrecht farmhouse interiors




JONATHAN HOLMES: In Australia a double murder on a farm would be headline news for days.  Not in South Africa.  It’s just too common an event.

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “My one neighbour,






Johannes Kitching (?sp) and his wife, they were murdered about six months ago.  Then there is Miss Simpson”.


JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “Nicky Simpson.  She was tortured.  Drilled through her knees and feet.  Then there is Pitti Hoo (? Sp)  Also a neighbour, not far from here, he was shot.  Karl Hall (?sp) was shot. So in the last 10, 20 years in this area I can name 20, 30 attacks, murders on farmers”.


“Plaas Moorde” memorial on hillside




JONATHAN HOLMES: “Plaas Moorde” is Afrikaans for farm murders.  On a hillside in Limpopo province, a private landowner has planted more than 2000 crosses.  Each one represents an individual murdered in a farm attack since 1994.  Seventy-five more crosses were added last year, but that figure is controversial. The nation’s biggest commercial farmers' union claims there were only 47 farm murders last year, the lowest number in nearly 20 years. 


Holmes and Roets walk among the crosses

AfriForum, an outspoken Afrikaner lobby group, says that figure is absurd.



ERNST ROETS: [Deputy CEO, AfriForum] “It’s certainly wrong. During the calendar year of 2017,


Roets. Super:
Ernst Roets
Deputy CEO, Afriforum

there’s been 84 farm murders that we could verify and when we say we could verify, we mean we have a list and we have the names of the people actually who’ve been murdered . So to say that there’s only been 47 is… I don’t know if it’s malicious or if it’s negligence, or if there’s a problem with the process in collecting the data, there could be a variety of reasons why the number is wrong”.


“Plaas Moorde” memorial




JONATHAN HOLMES: Whether farm murders last year numbered 47 or 75 or 84, they’re dwarfed by the total number of people killed in one of the most violent societies on earth.





Holmes to camera at “Plaas Moorde” memorial

JONATHAN HOLMES: “This place perhaps deliberately reminds a visitor of a war cemetery and like all such places it’s moving.  Each one of these crosses represents somebody’s father or mother, somebody’s son or daughter whose life was brutally cut short.  And yet these 2000 crosses represent white farmers and their families murdered since 1994.  If you planted a cross for every South African, black or white, who’s been murdered just last year, the crosses would stretch beyond the horizon – nearly 20,000 of them, and most of them have no memorial”.


Drone shots. Diesploot




JONATHAN HOLMES:  Not far from the Engelbrecht’s farm near Fochville is the so-called “informal settlement” of Diepsloot. 


Diepsloot GVs

It’s a place of dire poverty and soaring unemployment.


Holmes walks through Diepsloot with Mtika

It wouldn’t be wise to venture in here without a guide. Local journalist, Golden Mtika is mine.  He introduces me to Sebasu, whose family of eight lives in a one room shack. She’s been waiting for a government house for 11 years.  Most of that time she’s been unemployed.



SEBASU: “I’ve done nursing, a two-year course, yes, but I still can’t find even just any other job even without the one that I have qualifications for”.



JONATHAN HOLMES: “Where would you like to live if you could choose?”

SEBASU: “I would like to choose to live somewhere else because this place, I have small kids and I don’t think it’s a good environment for my kids to grow in and we don’t even have water and more especially about sanitation, it’s something that…”



JONATHAN HOLMES: “Hard to keep the kids clean and healthy, right?”

SEBASU: “Yes, yes, even to play on a clean environment.  ”.


Holmes walks through Diepsloot with Mtika to rubbish dump

JONATHAN HOLMES:  Lack of sanitation is the last of Diepsloot’s problems, Golden tells me.  It’s plagued by crime, violence and mob justice.  The brutality that’s a feature of many farm attacks is commonplace here.



GOLDEN MTIKA: “Last year November here, there was about four suspects who were apprehended by the community.  They accused them of rape and they brought them here, to this pile of rubbish that you see here.  It was a multitude of people that were here.  All of them they were murdered here, they were killed by the residents.  Stoned, beaten by sharp objects.  They put tyres around their necks, poured petrol, then they set them alight on, so they died here”.

JONATHAN HOLMES: “And they were alive when they did that?”

GOLDEN MTIKA: “Yes, when they brought them here they were alive. Yes, they killed them here”.


Drone shots. Townships, cityscapes






JONATHAN HOMES: It’s not just in the settlements and the countryside that crime is rising.  In South Africa’s great cities, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria – there’s a crime wave too.  Armed robberies of security vans, home invasions, street muggings.


Cityscapes. Night.




JONATHAN HOLMES: According to the internationally respected Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, armed attacks have increased 40% since 2012.

GARETH NEWHAM: [Institute for Security Studies] “We have a real problem with violence and it’s expressed in various different ways.


Newham. Super:
Gareth Newham
Institute for Security Studies

And so for us sitting in South Africa, looking at these 19,000 murders, looking at trying at… trying to get a sense of where it’s taking place, the various complex factors that result into it, this growth in armed attacks, the gangs involved in cash in transit heists. And then suddenly there’s international attention on the murders of white farmers.  It just sort of seems completely disproportionate.  It’s not that it isn’t a problem, of course for the victims it’s terribly traumatic, but it’s not the biggest challenge facing South Africa”.



JONATHAN HOLMES:  “Is there any evidence for the claim that’s often made that the farm attacks in particular are politically driven? That they’re part of some organised campaign to drive the whites from the land?”



GARETH NEWHAM: “There’s no credible evidence that the attacks against white farmers is organised or politically driven. There is evidence that the attacks on white farmers in South Africa are largely driven by criminal intent, greed”.


Holmes with Roets at Plaas Moorde” memorial

JONATHAN HOLMES: But AfriForum’s, Ernst Roets, says it’s too simplistic to claim that the farm attackers have only one motive.


Roets. Super:
Ernst Roets
Deputy CEO, AfriForum

ERNST ROETS: “Certainly robbery plays a role, and the intention to steal plays a role, but certainly there’s enough evidence that racism plays a big role and there’s enough evidence that political influences play a big role.  There are reported cases where the murderers themselves have said that they were influenced by politics in the committing of these crimes.  And secondly, even more concerning than that, is the political climate in South Africa”.


EFF supporters outside sports stadium, Klerksdorp, 16 June 2018




JONATHAN HOLMES: That climate is heating up the white farmers say, and one cause is the rise of a new political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, or EFF. I’ve come to one of their rallies in North West province, where the mood to me seems far from hostile.


Holmes with woman at rally

WOMAN SUPPORTER: “Jobs, opportunities, university and for everything.  I love the EFF with my whole life”.



JONATHAN HOLMES: The red berets and T shirts are a clear enough statement – this is an old fashioned communist party.  Its policy is to nationalise all land in South Africa and redistribute it to the poor and needy.







Malema addresses rally

JULIUS MALEMA: [at the rally] “Power!  [crowd] To us!  Long live the EFF, love live!  [crowd] Love live!”

JONATHAN HOLMES: The EFF’s self-styled Commander-in-Chief is Julius Malema, a former leader of the ruling African National Congress’s Youth League.



JULIUS MALEMA: [at the rally] “We are not going to accept that the poor of the poor must be excluded from education because they do not have money”.



JONATHAN HOLMES: Expelled from the ANC in 2012, he started his own rival party and promises the world to his followers.



JULIUS MALEMA: [at the rally] “Education is a right, all of us must have access to education”.



JONATHAN HOLMES: But there’s a dark side to Julius Malema’s populism. 



He sets race against race with a recklessness that shocks the political establishment. At this rally, he takes aim at the Indian middle class.



JULIUS MALEMA: [at the rally] “The majority of Indians hate Africans.  The majority of Indians are racist”.

JONATHAN HOLMES: But his favourite target is the white landowner.  He urges his followers to take back what was stolen from them.



JULIUS MALEMA: [at the rally] “The white minority which took our land by force, you must say enough is enough, we are taking the future into our own hands”.





Malema sings "Kill the Boer"

JONATHAN HOLMES: At the end of almost every speech he sings an old ANC war song, “Kill the Boer”, although that particular phrase has been banned as hate speech.

JULIUS MALEMA: [singing] “We have taken our land back!  We have taken our land back! Shoot to kill.  Shoot to kill.  Pow. Pow, Pow Pow”.



JONATHAN HOLMES:  For all his blatant racial dog-whistling, Malema has proved to be a shrewd political operator.


Malema in parliament. Super:
Parliament of RSA

JULIUS MALEMA: [in parliament] “There’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing this parliament can do, with or without you, people are going to occupy land”.



JONATHAN HOLMES: It was the EFF in parliament who proposed a motion in favour of expropriating land without compensation, a move that the ANC, led by new state President Cyril Ramaphosa, had little choice but to support.


EFF members in parliament chanting and slapping desk

JULIUS MALEMA: “Occupy land!  Occupy land!  Occupy land!  Occupy land!”



JONATHAN HOLMES: So far, the ANC has not seized any farmland without paying market price. 


Holmes walks with Lamola

But when I caught up with the ANC’s spokesman on land reform, Ronald Lamola, at a fancy conference centre outside Pretoria, he made it clear that it soon will.


Lamola. Super:
Ronald Lamola
African National Congress

RONALD LAMOLA: “There will be expropriation of some of the white owned farmlands.  There will be expropriation of land that government needs for roads or for residential purposes, so there will be expropriation”.





JONATHAN HOLMES: “We’ve talked to white farmers who say, ‘We are being attacked and not sufficiently protected by the government, and now, our land is under threat as well. What they want to do is get rid of us’. What is your response to that?”



RONALD LAMOLA: “It’s not true.  There’s not such a thing.  There’s no crime targeted to white people in South Africa.  It’s crime that’s happening in the farms, it’s happening everywhere and government is doing its best to resolve the crime problem.  With regard to the land question, there is no way we can avoid it.  We have to address the land question”.


Jo-an on farm




JONATHAN HOLMES: Farmers like Jo-an Engelbrecht say the mere threat of expropriation has dramatically affected the market for private land.



“I mean if you wanted to sell this farm now, would you get a good price for it?”



JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “Nothing. It’s zero.  It’s worth zero”.


JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “We had several auctions in the last two, three weeks cancelled because there was no people interested in buying land. Why would you buy a farm and tomorrow the government is going to take it?”


'Conserv' volunteers night patrol

JONATHAN HOLMES: And who is going to buy a farm if living there endangers their lives?



TREVOR ROBERTS: [at night searching a paddock] “What’s happened is I’ve just spoken to a tenant here of plot 174.  He thinks he disturbed some people that were in his house, that were breaking in”.




JONATHAN HOLMES: A night time training exercise turns into a genuine manhunt.  Trevor Roberts’ convoy of volunteers, a dozen vehicles strong, begins to inspect the fence lines around the property, looking for signs that the robbers are making for a nearby township.


Volunteers with torches searching fence line. Holmes with Ryan

“What are you looking for Ryan?”

RYAN: “Fence cuts. Cattle signs… anything they would have left behind while passing through a fence.  You know they sometimes wrap toilet paper around the fences as a marker so if they’re trying to get away quickly in the dark, it’s an easy marker for them to know where they can escape to”.



JONATHAN HOLMES:  This time it’s not a serious attack, just a break in while the residents were out.


Roberts in car

TREVOR ROBERTS: “Okay, they’ve found a laptop bag.  Did you hear?  Are you on radio?”



RYAN: “Yeah.”

TREVOR ROBERTS: “Okay fine.  The chances



still remain they’re going to run this way, so our action must carry on.  We’ve got lots of people down there as well so we’re covered.  Okay are you ready?”


Night patrol continues




JONATHAN HOLMES:  But the threat to farmers’ lives is as great as ever.  In the brief time we spent in South Africa, seven people were murdered in farm attacks.  The argument about what motivates these crimes goes on.






Holmes on veranda with Jo-An and Tessa

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “My personal opinion about this is that these farm attacks are partially motivated by money, greed, and partially about politics, you know the situation in our country.  Not only do they kill, but the way they kill.  They torture you, they hurt you, and this is, this is hate. This is political hate”.


Holmes and Mtika walking in Diepsloot

JONATHAN HOLMES:  It’s a view that’s echoed, unexpectedly, by my guide through the alleyways of Diepsloot, Golden Mtika.  He says he knows several gang members who’ve taken part in farm attacks.

GOLDEN MTIKA: “Most often these crimes they don’t



just end up being clean crimes.  They end up killing the person as well”.


GOLDEN MTIKA: “Sometimes through resistance, that the farmer does not want to give them what they want.  Even if he has or he doesn’t have, they would use force on him and they end up killing the person.  You see.  And some of them, they have that past ideology of saying, you know, the farmers took our land for free and when they go there they take out the anger on them”.



JONATHAN HOLMES: “So you think there is a racial…”

GOLDEN MTIKA: “Yes. There is that racial element in it as well.



It’s a thing of the past that was there and is still continuing in the form of robberies, yeah but it is there.  It is s there”.


Drone over township

JONATHAN HOLMES: The shadow of their bitterly divided past still hangs over all South Africans, black and white, poor and prosperous.


Drove over Fochville

[Hymn singing]



An hour’s drive away from Diepsloot,


Fochville church congregation

the burghers of Fochville gather each Sunday to pray for forgiveness and survival. For more than a century the Dutch reformed Church of South Africa provided the theological bedrock upon which apartheid was built.  God created separate races, it told its flock, and separate they should stay.


Minister preaches to congregation

Its ministers no longer preach that message. But there are no black faces here.  These people know their Bible:  Exodus 34, verse 7: “The Lord God visits the sins of the fathers on their children and their children’s children”.


Tessa playing violin in. church

[Violin music]



JONATHAN HOLMES:  Many younger Afrikaners have already left the church and the country too.  If she has her way, Tessa Engelbrecht, devout believer though she is, will follow soon – perhaps to Australia.

TESSA ENGELBRECHT: “Yes I would like that. 


Tessa interview

Then I could prepare a place for my mum and dad in case they decided one day that they would come over to Australia, then I would know there is a place for them.  But for me I wouldn’t even think twice if I got the chance”.


Engelbrecht family in church

JONATHAN HOLMES:  Like his father before him, Jo-an is a respected elder of the church.  His roots here are generations deep.


Drone over maize field

It’s just a few weeks since his parents’ murder.  He’ll get the harvest in he says and then decide what to do. It won’t be easy.




Jo-An with Holmes in field

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “If you’ve been on the farm for 40 years, two generations, and you’ve put a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears into the farm, you just don’t pack up and leave”.


Harvest shots

JONATHAN HOLMES: “What would make you stay or what would make you move?  How are you going to make that decision?”

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “Well it all depends on the government.  If Present Ramaphosa is willing to step up and address



the situation in our country, the crime and the corruption, I will be more than willing to stay, but at this point everything is just going south”.



JONATHAN HOLMES: “So if it goes on like that?”

JO-AN ENGELBRECHT: “What future is there for my children?  There’s no future here.”


Holmes and Jo-an in field



Credit start over maize field

Reporter - Jonathan Holmes

Producer - Alex Barry

Camera - Greg Nelson

Editor - Garth Thomas

Executive Producer - Marianne Leitch           

foreign correspondent

© 2018


Outpoint after credits




© 2019 Journeyman Pictures
Journeyman Pictures Ltd. 4-6 High Street, Thames Ditton, Surrey, KT7 0RY, United Kingdom

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