Ambitious plans by Army Reserves to establish a military presence under the Mzantsi Home Guard to up security in South Africa’s rural areas has the nod of approval from organised agriculture.
The initiative, announced in July by Chief: Army Reserves, Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, will see better utilisation of South Africa’s part-time soldiers. In addition to duties including supporting needy rural communities with water and sanitation services, soldiers and other musterings on Home Guard call-up will help with response to natural and manmade disasters as well as, importantly, intelligence gathering in rural and semi-rural areas to improve security.
A statement released post a high-level meeting between AgriSA, representing organised agriculture, and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), has it that further areas of co-operation will be explored as well as establishing “a mutually beneficial relationship to specifically explore integrated rural economic development and rural security initiatives”.
Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke, according to the statement, said: “The national defence force should be a role player assisting communities in distress and farming communities. The SANDF should be ‘a bridge builder’’’.
The country’s senior soldier is aware of the security and safety threat faced by farming communities along international borders adding cross-border crime should be dealt with to address this.
“The safety of farming communities along South Africa’s borders is important. This is one reason for AgriSA and the SANDF to work together on improving rural safety and security,” is how Pierre Vercueil, AgriSA president, summed up the meeting.
Farmers and soldiers – in the form of the representative agricultural organisation and the national defence force – further agreed agriculture is an “appropriate vehicle” to contribute toward economic growth. This, according to the statement, makes it important to deal effectively with crime and other community problems along borders and in rural areas.
“The Home Guard function will assist with organised and co-ordinated blanket coverage of South Africa’s rural areas, which will allow the SANDF to become more proactive in its approach to operations. Home Guard members will receive basic military training and additional training such as information gathering, dealing with disasters, providing support for communities in distress, and will play a vital role in rural safety and security. AgriSA welcomes the Home Guard function as it can improve rural safety, security and assist with further implementation of the national rural safety strategy,” the statement said.
Further follow-up meetings on, among others, improving the crime situation in border areas, are planned.