Farm Attack

Life can be cheap in Africa, and this weekend my parents experienced it firsthand. 50/50, my dad said. It was 50/50 as to whether they would come out alive or would be found dead together, husband and wife, lying side by side in a pool of blood in their own bathroom.

Farm House      Garden sign

I know this is shocking, but I am going to tell you like it was. This weekend we could have lost our parents to murder. But we didn’t.  By being submissive and co-operating with the armed intruders and possibly with an army of angels looking over them, (for you mom!) they were allowed to live. Many others in their small farming district, however, have not been so lucky.

Valley View I     Farm life

It was a normal Friday night on the farm. The stars were out and the nightjar was calling. The thousands of frogs nearby were in mid song and the crisp country air hinted the beginnings of winter. Friday nights are always ‘nights in;’ a chance to put your feet up, relax and escape the heavy demands of the farm with a good movie. Lying on their favourite couches, slippers on and surrounded by their most loved 5 furry dog friends, they were content. They could never have anticipated what would happen next.

‘What’s that noise? I heard a noise outside,’ said my mother.

‘I didn’t hear anything. I’m sure it’s nothing,’ said my father. They carried on watching their movie.

theatre (8)     fire (2)

2 minutes later my mother heard another noise and she wondered if maybe one of the dogs had been locked out and wanted to get in. But she counted 5 dogs. They were all inside. Then she turned her head as the creaky brass handle of the front door slowly began to move, her mind struggling to process what her conscience already knew. They were not alone.

Panic and fear consumed the cozy room as the door was smashed open with a heavy metal pipe. 4 vehement men stormed in, armed with Tasers, pepper spray and a gun. My father instinctively turned in the direction of his safe, the place where he kept his gun. Luckily he had no time to retrieve it; otherwise him and my mother would surely have been shot dead during the course of the night. In those few split seconds of them breaking in, my mother escaped out the kitchen back door. But she was caught exiting the garage as she attempted to flee into the darkness of her garden. She was dragged back inside.

When she came back in, my father lay huddled on the floor as they tasered him over and over again. They demanded that he tell them where the safe is? They had come for guns and money.

Keep calm and Paddle     Misty morning

My parents do not keep money in the house. All their farm staff are paid via internet banking, because of this problem. (Paying your staff cash in South Africa is like an open invitation for criminals to pay you a deadly mid-night visit.) But there was a problem. Losing keys in my family seems to be a genetic downfall, myself included! My dad could not remember where he had put the keys for the safe and these people seemed not to be the type to accept anything less than what they had come for.  Luckily my mother had thought about this possible scenario just recently and had gotten a spare key made for the safe. They pushed my father into the bathroom and tied him up into a fetal position. From there, it was up to my mother to communicate with the intruders and to lead them to the safe. With a gun to her head, she located her key and opened the safe, knowing there was no money inside; only a gun.

The intruders became extremely agitated at not finding money and believed, without a doubt in their mind, that there must be another safe in the house. They believed my parents were lying to them. They shouted at her, threatening to blow her husband’s brains out. They repeatedly made reference to the brutal Underberg farm murder that took place not so long ago. With a barrel of a gun pointed at her temple, she told them over and over again, that they were hiding nothing. They tied her up too. My parents lay side by side, at the mercy of their captors.

In the meantime, the others ransacked the house in search of another safe, ripping down the paintings and family photos from the walls, stripping the beds, toppling over furniture and spewing books from the bookcase. Possessed by the thought of acquiring money, they became more and more enraged at the possibility of not finding it.

Back in the bathroom, my parents had switched to survival mode. By now, they instinctively knew that one wrong move, one wrong word, one wrong look at these people could mean that ‘tonight’ would be their last. They remembered everything that had happened this last year. They remembered the elderly Richmond couple and their son who had come back from Germany to celebrate his parent’s anniversary. They were all massacred on his first night back home. They remembered the Eston father and son who ventured out into the night after the farm guard informed them there was a burglary taking place in the shed, only to be ambushed and attacked and finally shot dead in their sugarcane field. They remembered the Underberg couple where the man was bludgeoned to death with a hammer while his partner was forced to watch. They remembered Mr. Hackland, a gentle farmer in our district who was recently murdered when he was burgled for money in broad day light. And finally they remembered my younger brother who was also once locked in a bathroom with his best friend and the mother, while intruders attacked and killed the father in an armed burglary. Death was on their doorstep and they knew it. The only chance they had of surviving this was to do as they were told; to not make eye contact and to co-operate as much as possible.

Valley view     dam (13)_edited-1

My mother kept thinking, ‘Don’t make them angry.’

She suggested they take the bank cards and that she would write down their pin numbers. She offered them her jewelry, her wedding ring. ‘Take the TV, the laptops and our cell phones,’ she said. She also offered them the farm vehicles, all of them if they wanted.

But they just wanted money and they already had my father’s gun.

He tasered her in the neck and she screamed. Then his fist smashed into her face, while my father lay tied up on the floor, helpless. “I love you Cheryl, I love you,” my dad said, believing that the end was inevitably here. At this point my mother began to panic. ‘How far is this going to go? Are they going to rape me? Are they about to kill us; is this how it’s going to end for us?’

After being beaten, they left them alone in the bathroom for a few minutes except for the one pointing a gun at my mother’s head. Any talking between my parents would prompt the intruder to motion his finger across his throat, warning them with no uncertain terms, to keep quiet or he would kill them.

A few minutes later, they asked my parents for the pick-up keys and the remote for the gate. They loaded what they could and left the property.

10 minutes later, they were gone and my parents are still alive.

Jacaranda Trees     cow18    river (5)_edited-1    rocks             

I firmly believe that being non-aggressive and co-operative in this situation helped save their lives. So many others have not been lucky. I have only mentioned a few murders that have recently happened in our farming community, but it is no secret that in the rural areas in South Africa, innocent people are plagued with murder and violence all the time.

Our family has had a bad run these last few months. First my husband received a call from a gang saying that they had a ‘contract’ on our family (Mozambique) and now my parents have experienced a violent armed robbery. (South Africa)

I cannot speak for anyone else, but for me. These 2 experiences have given me huge clarity about what is important to me in life. Those few minutes that I believed my child might have been kidnapped have been ingrained in my soul. I wonder if it is the same for my parents. First, the importance to live in an environment that we feel safe and secondly, the overwhelming realization that nothing else really matters except that you and your family still have each other and are alive; that possessions, savings, deadlines and the other daily matters that consume our life mean nothing in the end. It’s when ‘life’ is about to be ripped away from us that we really understand what is important and what is not.

The Bright Field by R.S. Thomas

I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while,

And gone my way and forgotten it.

But that was a pearl of great price, the one field that had treasure in it.

I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess.

Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past.

It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed 

As transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

                                              bright field    Sunset Walk


93 replies »

  1. So sad. We weren’t so lucky. We lost my mother in a horrific crime incident 8 years ago in Cape Town. My family now live in many different parts of the world with a lot more clarity and perspective on life – no. 1 survival. All the best with your journey. xxx

    • I am so sorry to hear that. I wish you and your family safety and a sense of peace if ever possible after such an experience. I am very lucky to still have my parents and I realise how close we came to losing them. Thank you for your comment and your well wishes.

  2. How devastating and traumatic for your family…. words cannot express what you/they must be going through. Our hearts go out to you and our beautiful country!

    The disturbing part is also when you mentioned a ‘contract’ via
    Mozambique? So does this mean
    poor neighbouring countries are also in on these attacks? ♡

    Your beautiful photos of the farm made this more poignant.

    • Thank you Moira. The contract on our family was a totally separate, Mozambican incident. There have been over 70 kidnap cases in Moz in the last 2 years, all targeting Mozambican citizens and residents. A lot of people, including ourselves, have received threatening calls, demanding money.

  3. I am so thankful that your parents survived this ordeal. We had a similar experience at our home on the 31st of October 2014 , 4 black men dressed in security outfits , bullet proof vests and pistols!!!! it was so frightening, all we could do was to remain calm and give them what they wanted and I was very fortunate not to be raped however the do get very violent. They always asks for the safe…..perhaps to leave the safe open with a little money in it and some costume jewellery!!
    I never thought it could happen to us but it did & it can happen to anybody in this country , it happens everyday and we hardly hear of the crimes !!! It is time we all stand together and get as much publicity possible on what is happening in South Africa …..violent crime against white farmers, pensioners and innocent civilians should make headlines worldwide!

    • Thank you for your comment Eliza and I am so glad to hear you survived the attack. No-one can deny these type of attacks are on the rise. Your point about leaving some cash in the safe or jewelry, I think, is good advice.

  4. Oh my goodness!!! Reading your family’s story gave me that awful sick-to-my-stomach-feeling I still struggle with whenever hearing about an attack! I take my hat off to your folks for wanting to stay after such a trauma! It is going to be extremely hard for them – physically and emotionally. Having the bad memories of that awful night playing over and over in your head when trying to get back to your normal live as they knew it, the smell and certain triggers all over the house… It’s hectic!!! I know this first hand as we also were attacked for a whole hour and half! My youngest was only a month old!!! Praise the Lord for His hand of protection and answered prayers. We stayed as we couldn’t afford to just move and started looking for a place to go to, until the attackers returned AGAIN – 5 months later to be exact!!! This time my boys experienced the trauma as we locked ourselves in a saferoom I created after the 1st attack! It’s bad, real bad! A friend past away last December after being brutually attacked with a hammer until she was unrecognizable! These people have way too much hatred and feel absolutely nothing for any life! I pray that your folks and family have the necessary peace and comfort from above. I would suggest the farmers there should contact these guys as they help sort out problems of communities being attacked Also, these security systems are excellent as it is called an early warning system which warns you as soon as an intruder is on your property before they reach your actual house so that you can be prepared for them and not get caught off guard and it connects to existing alarms as well
    Sincerely hope this helps as many of your readers as possible and saves lives where it’s needed 🙂

    • Wow, I am so glad to hear your family got through this and not once, but twice. All of what you have said is excellent advice. My folks are on the same wave length as you when it comes to certain security systems. Early warning is crucial. I’ll tell them about your experience. And thank you for those links.

  5. Thank you for sharing – and God clearly had his arms wrapped around your parents that night. So so glad it had a good ending 🙂

  6. I wish your folks all the best in their recovery process from this terrible barbaric experience which they had to endure and good on them for staying on, on the farm which they have enjoyed living on for many years and where so many memories have been created. Hopefully those good memories will be stronger and overpower this recent event. I know also that living in a farming community (we farm in Eston) they will have amazing support from friends and neighbors who will help them to get some normality in life again even though that will have to be with much heavier security measures. We are all very worried about how crime seems to have escalated recently! Special thoughts for your parents and your family from us, Volley and Claire Keyser of Eston.

    • Thank you so much Claire, you’ve summed it up perfectly – all the reasons for wanting to stay where they are, where they have always been. But with better security, much better security! The community has been fantastic, so incredibly supportive. It’s been a great reminder of how awesome a farming community can be, how they pull together during the difficult times and ‘get through’ it in the end.

  7. Thank you for sharing your heartrending story Lianne. I pray that each of you will find healing from your horrific ordeal.

  8. Hi Lianne – I remember your folks from when I lived in Ixopo from 88-92 – I am so pleased they survived and also that they intend to stay on with beefed up security!! You are so right with what you say about what is important. I have so many happy memories of Ixopo and all the people there – it was a great time in my life and I was blessed so much by the district’s people. Sending much love and light to you all – Marylu xx

    • Hi Mary, thanks for your message, I will let the folks know you have been in touch. They are definitely going to beef up the security, Fort Knox style without a doubt. They had become quite casual about it. My folks will continue living there and as my mom mentioned earlier today, ‘regardless of what has happened, it is still the home they love and that has not changed. :-)’

  9. thanks for the story and so glad your parents are safe!!! By the way…the photos are stunning! Is that your parents farm?

    • It was! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when I got the news. Even though this happens so often, not many of us really believe it’s going to happen to us. I hope that my folks experience encourages South African’s to be proactive because as you say, it’s definitely not going to be the last attack on a farmer or anyone for that matter.

  10. Hi Lianne. Blessings to you and your parents and family. It is a lack of understanding by most (human beings), as to how we create our reality and therefore continue as a species (humanity) to co-create experiences of a lower nature. Humanity has lost it’s spiritual (nothing to do with religion) knowledge and become so programmed in a collective belief in separation, judgement and blame, which simply continues to perpetuate the delusion.We are not the helpless powerless victims we have been hoodwinked into believing we are. It is time for humanity to take a collective breath and re-evaluate who we have chosen to become, to see through the lies and propaganda, and to to see with, and live from, our hearts, not our intellect – we can see where that has got us – to look within at our minds, our consciousness, our thoughts, our beliefs, our judgements, opinions and begin to tend the garden that is our mind – take out the weeds from their roots so to speak – as weeds simply breed more weeds and end up consuming the garden if we allow it. We have all been masterfully distracted from looking within with a society programmed to always look outside themselves, to point the finger of blame, to give away our power and self responsibility, for-fitting our own divine authority to co-create the world we all so desperately want but don’t know how to manifest, through our choice to remain asleep, as zombie-like, we continue thinking & believing & acting & behaving,the same way we always have, judging, blaming, separating – thinking this will bring us a new experience – how could it possibly? Have we not bumped our heads against the same brick walls over and over and over and over? Isn’t it time for radical changes within ourselves, our thoughts, our beliefs, our behaviour? How many times are we going to choose to live ground hog day before we wake up? Many wise men have pointed the way, but few have chosen – yes, chosen – it is and always will be – our choice – to listen and then to think, live, breathe, act and inhabit the way of the heart, the way of unity, the way of forgiveness, compassion, truth, self honesty, self worth, and love.

    • Finance, difficulty in finding an international job, family…

  11. My dad was murdered just out side of Richmond 17 years ago, he tried to get my mom to but she ran screaming:( what a sad country South Africa has become 🙁 happy to be living some where safe and raising a family with no intention of ever living there again. Where is the justice?

    • I am sorry to hear that. Richmond especially has had a violent history. It sounds like Eston too is experiencing some horrific crime. Wishing you all the best for you and your family.

  12. Really sorry to hear your family’s ordeal. We really need to speak out! So many incidents are happening now that are just too close to home…..There needs to be a website where one can record all these incidents so that we can see the truth as to what is really happening to our beloved country. A friend was murdered a few weeks ago and not one thing in the news!! How many crimes are being committed??? We need to know!

  13. Your family is ‘lucky’. My father was also a farmer and he lost his life in a farm attack. A pointless attack where they in the end took nothing.

    • Chelsea, I am so sorry to hear that. It’s happening far to often these days and because of that, it’s easy for the public to become desensitized to the news when they read about experiences like your family’s. But when someone like yourself, who undoubtedly is hurting and very angry, speaks up, it becomes very real. I am so sorry to hear about your loss.

  14. That’s awful, but a sad reality in this country. Are your parents going to move? There is more than one violent gang out there, and many of them kill just for pleasure, regardless of how accommodating you are to them (racially motivated).

    • Hi there, no they are not going to move. But step up the security in a big way, yes! The whole family have been there for over 70 years now and moving to town is not what they want. It is frightening to hear what is going on in the region and there does seem to be a huge escalation of violent, hate motivated crime. Killing for pleasure is a reality and I am totally aware of it. Luckily for my parents, this particular gang did not go that far. My parents feel very strongly that had they been unhelpful or aggressive, it would have not ended like it did. I guess there is no text book for situations like this.

  15. What an awful ordeal for your parents! They are very lucky to be alive.! I too lost family just above Midmar a few years back. These farm murders have to stop. I do hope your parents find peace. *Brigid

    • I agree Brigid, it must be stopped. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your family member near Midmar. I wonder ‘how can we end this violence?’ How will this get better without dealing head on with the core social issues like poverty, education and job opportunities? It’s going to take a lot, starting with government and an end to hate speech being used by our countries leaders!!!

      But in the mean time we can only beef up our security and give ourselves a few critical minutes to call for help before they get in. Thank you for your kind words of support for my family.

    • Education, and more education of the masses… does not enter the ANC agenda to educate… the uneducated always make the masses sheep….. just history repeating… Dingane did not educate, he had sheep…. Zim, I do not even need to touch on with your history… the very sad story of Africa which always has so much potential… stay strong xxx

  16. Thank you for sharing this profoundly moving story. I’m so relieved that your parents survived that night. My prayers are with your family both in Mozambique and South Africa.

  17. Same thing happened to my parents in the wilderness, eastern cape. My father was stabbed multiple times. The value of life in South Africa is less than the Casio on your wrist. Optimism and hope are dwindling resources, the future for those that can, is as an expat. My sympathy during your time of reflection.

  18. What a horrific experience, glad to hear that you’re parents are still alive. Its amazing in South Africa that the farmers employ so many of the local people paying them good money for there labor and keeping the economy going but sadly many of us end up like this. Please send them my regards. Amazing photo’s.

  19. It was awful to hear of this attack. I know your parents well as my son worked for Sunderland Seedlings for a number of years. Please give them both hugs and wish them a speedy recovery from John and Gail Clayton.

  20. Read your post a couple of times today. Told my wife about it during the local evening news which included the trial of two guys for home invasion. Tomorrow, the husband who is paralyzed from a gunshot wound during the break in will testify about his wife being raped. These guys are going to spend a very long time in Raleighs Central Prison, none of which will undo the damage. This was in the city. Home invasion here is rare but it happens. We do catch them, too late. Glad your folks made it through.

  21. Lianne our thoughts are with you and your parents, please send my regards to them.Your site is a great read with pics, brings back many memories.

    • Thank you Nigel, I will pass the message on – better yet, get them to read all these messages of support. And thank you for your comments on my blog 🙂

  22. Lianne, I am sorry to hear about this experience but happy your parents will be ok. Despite South Africa’s beauty and incredible people, it is stories like these that really hit home about the reality of life. It is a very honest and well written story. Thanks for sharing.

  23. this has been happening for years, but no action is taken and our black government always has excuses, our nation is barbaric, lived through this and still am……shocking, disgusting……its genocide of our white population..when i lived in Eston i went through numerous farm attacks to folk around us, 7 running gun battles, 2 hijackings, 3 ambushes, 3 time threatened with groups with AK,s assisted the police in recovering one of the largest munitions caches in south africa and when one relates to people its like you are talking trash or making things up…till u talk to a victem….mt 5 cents worth …i know your sorrows and fears… strong

  24. What we think of as the real world is a dream, until a nightmare happens. THAT’s the real world. It happened to my own folks in ’94 – similar scenario; sitting around the fire of an evening on their farm. Woofies with them. Door crashed open, four men, fortunately only with knives, but locked dad in a cupboard and mum in the cellar. Took a gun, could not find ammo, the bakkie, TV, and crashed in the Lowveld. Gun recovered. Huge sympathy to your parent; I pray the trauma fades…

    • Thank you Peter and for sharing your story. It’s nice to know there was a bit of karma in your folks story. Life in Africa seems to follow a bitter/sweet theme. While we are blessed with so much; with intensely wonderful ‘in Africa only moments,’ so much can go so horribly wrong.

  25. Devastated to hear what happened to your parents. My thoughts are with you and your family. Thank you for putting pen to paper and sharing this with us. Stay brave. X

  26. So relieved to hear your parents are fine. So sad to hear of this tragedy — your parents home is a place of tranquility (we got married on their farm) and this should not have happened in such a beautiful place.

  27. Hi Lianne. I wanted to say that I hit the like button, because I want to thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry for what you and your family are enduring and hope that soon the roller coaster of life will begin its ascent.

  28. Unbelievable reality of living in Africa, so glad to hear they survived, but what a traumatic experience that must have been.
    The contradiction between your pictures and the story make both even stronger and youre so true about the imprtant things in life, cherish every moment of health and safety for your family
    All the strength to you and your parents,

  29. I am so very sorry to hear about the horrors your parents had to go through and you after hearing about this and now wondering whether you and your family will be safe. The world can no longer be a safe place for any of you, no matter where you go from here. But I do hope that you’ll find a place where you can rebuild what has been destroyed inside of you. Blessings, Annette

  30. Thank you for sharing your story so honestly and openly. I pray that your folks recover emotionally from this terrible ordeal, and are able to continue living in their beautiful environment – your pics are amazing. I fear for my family also living on farms in the Thornville and Baynesfield districts. What are they to do? Where must they go? I pray for my country, my family and my children.

    • Thank you Trudy. Since posting this blog, I have been shocked to learn how many farm attacks there have been in this area (Camperdown/Thornville/Richmond/Eston/Ixopo/Underberg. Messages are pouring in from people who have either experienced a farm attack or who have lost someone. As one of my readers mentioned in a message, it’s like a slow genocide taking place. It happens so often, yet it has almost become something of the norm. Until it happens to someone close to you. The violence on a whole in South Africa is out of control. How did these criminals become so violent and heartless? How have they reached this point that they have no conscience about ending a human life?

  31. What a horrific story! One wonders why there’s no security system as a guard at a gate of the community…I have seen documentaries where there are countries considered unstable who have a security system installed.
    I am certainly relieved to hear they are alive it must be so hard for them & all the family around to “digest” all that. It is so true what you say, we reevaluate & priorities completely change after a traumatic experience.
    Life & health is all that matters & I wish all your family from now on only good tidings, much happiness & serenity 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately my parents had become quite casual about security. Their electric fence was not working and the farm guard was patrolling else where on the 3000 acre estate. They did not have an alarm system either. So they were especially vulnerable. Thankfully, they pulled through this one and will definitely be beefing up their security. However, having said that – often a security system here in South Africa is just a means of buying you time before they get in. We’re talking about highly, professional armed intruders who will get in, regardless of a guard.

    • Your answer confirms my fear of ever going to live in such places whatever the advantages are should it be the beauty of its environment or something else nothing to me equals health & security but one doesn’t always have a choice in life that I can understand 🙂
      My best wishes go to all your family!

  32. I am so very sorry to hear about this and also very grateful your parents are unharmed. Life indeed can be cheap my parents was hijacked 10 March 2003 and my father severely beaten, they too escaped with their lives. The shock is very bad and I am thinking of you and your dad and mom.

    • Do you think a security system will stop them. I myself and my parents on separate occasions have been the victims of farm attacks. No security system will stop those determined to gain entry.

    • I agree with you that if they are determined to get in, it is just a matter of time. But having ‘some’ time, some warning that trouble is almost on your door step, is better than nothing. Time to call for help.

    • Thank you so much Amber Africa, it’s been a huge shock for them and the farming community. This violence seems to be happening so often these days, yet we never really believe it’s going to happen to us.

    • It was a huge shock, no-one ever sees something like this coming even though we are so often warned about it. In the 70 years my family and ancestors have been there, they have had one or 2 petty theft incidences, but nothing like this. We are so lucky that they are still with us!

    • Thank you. That’s the thing about South Africa, I believe it’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world with breath taking landscapes and wonderful people…except for a few who unfortunately taint the entire country.

    • Thanks Bart, it was a terrible shock, especially hearing it over the phone and not being able to be with them. But the most important this is that they survived.