According to Agri SA president Dan Kriek, Gauteng and Tarlton police have tarnished the image of farmers by initially reporting to the media that the farm worker shot on Saturday, had been shot by a farmer for allegedly stealing a tractor in Tarlton, in the west of Johannesburg.
“The police and the media have an enormous responsibility to ensure that crime-related incidents and the identity of the guilty parties are correctly reported,” Kriek said in a statement.
It later emerged that the man had allegedly been shot by a security guard, PWJ Durant, and not a farmer as Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela previously reported.
Kriek said that the information alleging that the incident was racially-motivated was not conducive to nation-building, but instead led to the polarisation of communities.
“False reporting on the incident and poor journalism resulted in farmers’ reputation and public image being tarnished. The unnecessary dissemination of images relating to the incident, had a negative effect on the dignity of the victim. This, and the false reporting, is unacceptable,” said Kriek.
Kriek said painting farmers as guilty parties led to “incorrect perceptions” about farmers in society and added that a 2014 human rights commission inquiry found that good relations between farmers and farm workers, as well as rural communities, was not emphasised enough.
The inquiry found that negative stereotyping of these relationships needed to end. Kriek said he hoped for more accurate information about farmers in the future.
“Today, I call on the media and other stakeholders to ensure that information regarding farmers is reported correctly and that the farming community is not unnecessarily condemned for actions in which they had no part,” said Kriek.
Kriek extended his condolences to the family of the farm worker and added that farm workers were important for food security and agriculture.
Durant appeared in the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court on Monday where his case was postponed to next Monday for a bail application.