The what and why of farm attacks

Issue 4 2021 Agriculture (Industry), Security Services & Risk Management

In order to be successful in countering an attack against a farming unit or its owner and workers, it is necessary to understand how the mind of the attacker works and how he approaches the target or victim/s.

These persons are motivated in their own way of thinking and they are single-minded in their approach. A very sad aspect of this is that their very motivation and drive may be based on a misunderstanding or false information and even if you are aware of it, it may not be possible to sway them from going through with the attack.

Very much like it is impossible to prevent a suicide bomber by applying logical values, the same applies to the farm attacker. To make matters worse they are very likely to be under the influence of alcohol (concoctions) or drugs and the perceived ‘protection’ of the local sangoma.

Laurence Palmer.

The attack and its ultimate consequences may be totally out of proportion to the trigger that sparked the attack. A worker dissatisfied over wages or accommodation, a perception of unfair treatment or some other reason. An act of perceived racism that happens on the spur of the moment.

It is also necessary to understand that there is no, ‘one solution fits all’ possible in this scenario. We have to analyse the risk and threat and counter them with the best possible solution, taking into account time, distance and finance.

A very disturbing and serious statistic reveals that in 83% of incidents the attackers and the victims are known to each other and have one or other formal or semi-formal relationship. The victim is actually in many incidents being attacked from within, which puts the victim at an immediate disadvantage.

Factors to consider

More likely than not, the attack has been well planned. The attackers have recruited a worker to provide them with information related to the activities and situation at the target location or person. They will conduct surveillance and record timings and habits of the target and its members. Other precautions include:

• Take note of any unusual vehicles or persons around the farm or homestead. Particularly any out of the ordinary behaviour from workers. In the case of vehicles, record the licence plate information for future reference.

• The attackers will probably be in a group of four or six and they may all be armed.

• They display a ‘nothing to lose’ and ‘don’t care’ attitude, leading to savagery and activities that we do not anticipate.

• You are fighting for your life. Once you are overpowered you have no chance. You are facing a very difficult choice, the Police and other responders will tell you not to resist and to do whatever the attackers say, while in practice some victims have escaped serious injury and even death by resisting the attackers and not showing any weakness.

• If you are forced to drive a vehicle to the bank or as a means to get away, take your first opportunity to crash the vehicle into a property or ditch. It will take the attackers by surprise and may cause them to panic. It will also disable the vehicle. If you are locked in the boot of a car and cannot activate the internal lock mechanism, kick out the taillights and wave your hands out of the vehicle to attract attention.

• The self-defence laws related to the use of a firearm are very complex and difficult for a layman to understand. The moment that the victim discharges a weapon towards a person, a charge of attempted murder or murder will be automatically opened by the Police. It is now up to the victim to prove to the Police or a court of law that he, the victim, acted in self-defence and had no other choice but to fire his weapon.

• The irony is that we have a firearm and we obtained a licence for it based on our need to defend ourselves, our family and property from attack. However, in practice we are unprepared and invariably the attackers will force the victim to open the safe and they will escape with that firearm. A firearm in a safe cannot protect anybody.

• There are many non-lethal self-defence weapons on the market. If you are trained in their use and understand your situation before or during the attack, the victim will be able to repel the attackers or defend themselves successfully against the attack.

You have to ask yourself, why and how is it possible that the following statement can be made by responders and published in the public domain? “Farm security is generally of a poor standard. Farmers are not serious about their own security.”

Many security professionals will give a potential victim advice on how to protect themselves, their family and their property. One word comes to mind: Awareness.

This article is the opinion of the author and is based on the latest information available and his previous and current efforts to prevent farm attacks. For more information, contact Laurence Palmer, +27 73 954 4450,


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