Another step to improving rural safety


This week saw a high level meeting where police, organised agriculture and civil society took rural security head on with commitments made in a number of areas of concern.

These included cross-border crime and its effect on the wider agricultural community in South Africa as well as the sometimes vexed issue of police reservists, a rural safety summit and what is called “policingnomics”, also known as the economics of policing.

SA Police Service (SAPS) National Commissioner General Khehla Sithole presided over the meeting attended by senior representatives of AgriSA, TLU (Transvaal Landbou Unie) and AfriForum.

A SAPS statement has it that “robust discussions” on a number of issues, including “matters of mutual trust” took place with Sithole saying there was “unwavering commitment from police to prioritise crimes in rural areas proactively and reactively”.

The meeting agreed to formalise establishment of national and local Joint Rural Safety Command Centres to integrate personnel and resources including the use of helicopters and drones.

“These centres will be responsible to jointly implement the operational plan of the rural safety strategy which will address the issues of mutual trust as well as achieving the ultimate objective of significantly reducing crime in the rural areas,” the statement said.

Attention was also given to recruitment and utilisation of reservists to make this component “more accessible” to people in rural communities.

Cross border crime affecting the farming community was discussed and emphasis placed on resourcing police stations sited at or near international borders, improving intelligence and establishing cross boarder liaison committees.

“Crime intelligence will enhance its approach in determining hotspot areas through participation in the priority committee meetings of all policing levels as well as establishing a rural Safety analysis desk,” Sitole said.

The groupings at this week’s meeting agreed to meet on a quarterly basis going forward to monitor implementation of the rural strategy.

At the time of publication the only political party to respond to the meeting was the Democratic Alliance (DA). Its shadow agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Annette Steyn welcomed the planned closer relationship between rural police and the communities they serve.

“It is a welcome change that the safety of farmers, farm workers and community members is being taken seriously by senior SAPS members instead of them being told  they should fend for themselves as Police Minister Bheki Cele told farmers in Normandien in KwaZulu-Natal,” she said.

“It’s high time police and the agricultural sector come together to fight farm attacks and murders. I hope this was the first of many similar meetings that will work toward improving safety and security in South Africa’s rural areas,” according to Steyn.