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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
South African farm workers 'at risk'
South Africa farm
Both black and white farm-dwellers experience violence
South Africa's police and courts have been accused of paying more attention to violence against white farm-owners than black farm-workers.

Earlier this month, a farmers' organisation said that 1,000 white farmers had been killed in the past decade and demanded more action from the authorities.

Attacks against farm owners have got most of the attention, but attacks against other farm residents are a much bigger problem

Human Rights Watch
In a new report the New York-based Human Rights Watch recognises the plight of the white farmers but claims that black rural residents are at even more risk of violence.

Bronwen Manby of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch said: "Farm-workers and other rural dwellers are more vulnerable to violence, including from their employers, and less likely to get help from the police and courts."

Lack of vigour

The report, "Unequal Protection: The State Response to Violent Crime on South African Farms" accuses police, army units and private security agencies and farm-owners of beating killing and raping farm-workers.

It was released in advance of the United Nations World Conference against Racism which opens in Durban next week.

squatter camp
Private security firm have been used to evict squatters

Seven years after black majority rule came to South Africa, Human Rights Watch said, "The criminal justice system fails to ensure that police and court officials investigate, prosecute and punish murder, rape and other serious crimes against black South Africans with the same vigour as when these crimes are committed against whites."

Human Rights Watch says that this is even true of recently promoted black police officers.

Control security companies

The organisation calls on the government to stop soldiers from carrying out police duties and also to bring private security companies under control.

Whites own the majority of South Africa's farm-land, mostly sprawling estates with small areas set aside as housing for hundreds of black farm-workers.

Critics say the farms contain feudal relationships similar to those of the European Middle Ages.

In July, South African police swiftly moved to evict black squatters who had moved onto land in Zimbabwe-style invasions.

See also:

12 Jul 01 | Africa
Eyewitness: Evicted and homeless
12 Jul 01 | Africa
Police evict SA squatters
04 Oct 00 | Africa
South Africa squatters win battle
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Africa
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