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article image'War of the Flea' — documentary on farm murders in South Africa Special

By Anne Sewell     Jun 4, 2012 in Crime
Independent filmmaker and director, Rian van der Walt, has created a moving and shocking film showing the genocide which is being carried out against white farmers in South Africa.
"War of the Flea" is a 93-minute documentary, released in November 2011, which examines in depth society in South Africa since Apartheid, and how this society has led to vicious farm murders.
The name "War of the Flea" derives from a military term:
"The guerrilla fights the war of the flea and his military enemy suffers the dog’s disadvantages: too much to defend; too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy to come to grips with. If the war continues long enough – this is the theory – the dog succumbs to exhaustion and anaemia without ever having found anything on which to close its jaws or to rake with its claws." – Robert Taber
The documentary contains shocking information on this genocide under ANC rule in the "new" South Africa against the white minority of the Afrikaners by farm killings, or 'plaasmoorde' as it is called in Afrikaans.
The movie was shown at an international conference in the European Parliament in February 2012, in the presence of farmers' spokesman Henk van de Graaf and hosted by Philip Claeys, member of the European Parliament for the Vlaams Belang-party.
A preview of the movie is included above. What you will hear will be shocking, but it is important that news of this situation gets out to the world. Little information is broadcast on television in South Africa itself, and the rest of the world, for the most part, knows nothing of this.
The full documentary can be bought at and can be sent anywhere in the world.
Similar to the situation in Zimbabwe after the country became independent, while the farms are not at present being completely taken away from the farmers in land grabs, South African farmers themselves, and their families, are being attacked and killed in the most horrendous ways.
Julius Malema, former president of the ANC Youth League, said that all whites are criminals, and that they are going to take all the land back without compensation, but that if farmers give back 80% of their land, all farmer attacks will stop. While Malema is no longer leader, it is to be expected that his former followers will continue his thoughts.
Bearing in mind that Zimbabwe, before independence, used to be the "bread basket of Africa", and now people have nothing and the farm lands lie fallow, the question is how can South African farmers give away their land and let the people go hungry? Why should they give away their land and all their years of hard work?
The majority of farmers are Afrikaners, and are a minority and a small part of the population in South Africa. They feel that these vicious attacks are hate crimes and are, in fact, genocide.
South African farmers feel that if this is not stopped, Zimbabwe will "look like a walk in the park", because if there are no farmers, no food can be produced. Hungry people are a lot more violent than homeless people and it is important to protect the food supply of the people of South Africa. It is not about how quickly the government can take the land from the farmers and give it to the masses, it is about feeding those masses.
It is also about preventing such gruesome and terrible crimes against the farmers and their families.
Digital Journal interviewed director and filmmaker, Rian van der Walt:
Digital Journal:
Are you a farmer yourself and has this affected you personally (your friends or family)?
van der Walt:
I am not a farmer but, in the eighties, I grew up in a small town called Louis Trichardt. It consisted of a large farming community, so I have been very aware of how dangerous it is to farm in South Africa, from a very young age.
After I left for the big city (Johannesburg) in my early twenties, I always kept in contact with family and friends back in my hometown.
It was during this time, in the nineties, that farm murders really started to escalate into a low impact war which we still see to this day.
Even though South Africa was going through a very difficult time from a crime point of view, the brutality of farm murders was what really upset me. Several farmers from my hometown were murdered in the most horrific ways possible.
The murders kept on going and from the start of my television career in the early nineties, I wanted to make a film about commercial farmers and the murders and attacks that take place without the world noticing or caring.
At the end of 2009, a farmer was killed outside of Louis Trichardt. He was, with his wife, tied to the bathtub and then beaten to death, tied to his wife, who couldn't do a thing to save him.
It was then that I decided that I have to tell the world about this. I picked up the 'phone and I called a friend in Louis Trichardt to find out more about the murder, and that 'phone call paved the way to more 'phone calls, which eventually ended up in me getting the first shots of the film in June 2010.
That led to a short 5 minute sequence which I used to go to potential investors in the documentary and by May 2011, I started officially with what we now know as "War of the Flea".
We finished the film in November 2011.
Digital Journal:
Roughly how many farmers have been attacked in this way?
van der Walt:
The police in South Africa do not keep statistics that show specifically how many farmers have been murdered. it is categorised under murder, so it makes it very difficult to know exactly how many, but what we do know is that when they were still keeping stats in 2003, the murders between 1991 and 2003 were 1,613 murders and 9,154 farm attacks.
If we extend the line on the graph by another ten years we get a figure of over 3,000 murders and over 18,000 farm attacks.
Keep in mind that we only have about 35,000 commercial farmers [in South Africa]. This gives us a figure of 50% of farmers that have been attacked on a farm, and roughly 10% of this group of people has been murdered.
Digital Journal:
How long has this been going on?
van der Walt:
This has been going on through the eighties, because the predominantly white farmers were seen as part of the military, because farmers were used to patrol the borders and the rural areas under the supervision of the military. Back then we were very aware of military-type attacks on farms, but farm murders were not that common. After the '94 elections, crime became rampant in South Africa and the farmers felt it much worse than the average citizen.
Digital Journal:
Are the government or the police doing anything to try and stop this horror?
van der Walt:
The short answer is "No!" The long answer is that we have such a huge crime problem in South Africa. 34 murders per 100,000 people. UK has roughly 2.4 per 100,000 and America has in the region of 6 per 100,000.
We have about 2.2 million reported crimes of which more than 700,000 are violent crimes. This out of a population of 50 million.
The police are not even coping with crime in the cities/towns/suburbs. How are they going to cope with farm murders/attacks out in the rural areas, many kilometres away from the nearest police station?
What is concerning is the fact that nothing is said about it from the government's side. There is no plan in action from a policing point of view that caters specifically for the farmers. The government says that everyone is affected by crime and that everyone should get the same treatment. Even though I understand the argument, it is difficult to agree when a farmer is dragged behind a vehicle or stabbed 141 times and then his 2-year-old daughter is shot in the head, or a 78 year old woman is hit over her head so hard that her fingers came of her hand.
Two women were raped with broken bottles, so badly that they couldn't find any of their female parts inside them when they did the autopsy.
The brutality is present every time a farmer is murdered, but not when people in the city are murdered. So, if only from that point of view these crimes are different, bordering on hate crimes and therefore, I believe, should get more attention.
Digital Journal:
Do you think South Africa will go the same way as Zimbabwe?
van der Walt:
My heart says yes, but my logic says no. I don't believe that the government wants this to happen, but there are definitely people within the ruling party (ANC) who are pushing for land grabs, because they believe that it is the only way to get land to the black majority in South Africa.
In the end it will come down to the group who can get the support from the majority and with a growing unemployment rate of 52% among the young people in South Africa, the government should take notice, because we can definitely turn into a Zimbabwe very quickly.
A reminder that the full documentary is available at and can be sent anywhere in the world.
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