Farm attacks and murders came under the spotlight earlier this month when South Africa’s top cop, National Commissioner Khehla Sitole, met with a delegation from the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) to seek ways of increasing capacity to effectively combat rural crime.
According to an SA Police Service (SAPS) statement, the organisation’s rural safety strategy “strives to address rural safety as an integrated day-to-day policing approach by creating a safe and secure rural environment”. Reporting on the meeting Maroela Media notes SAPS plans to implement a police reservist recruitment programme this year with the sole objective of putting reservists into rural areas.
According to the Afrikaans news website, Sitole said the recruitment programme was part of outcome seven of the SAPS turnaround vision. It aims to combat stock theft and farm attacks by implementation of the rural safety strategy which focuses on rural safety, infrastructure and a rural safety framework.
Sitole is reported as telling the meeting: “We are looking at increasing the capacity needed to effectively combat crime in rural and farming communities and will during this financial year embark on a recruitment drive to enlist police reservists”.
No detail is given of numbers or where and how the new additions will be deployed ort utilised. It has previously been suggested that reservists be utilised in office positions, such as taking statements at police stations and doing other clerical work, allowing trained officers to be “actively” deployed.
At the end of 2018, South Africa had just 11 015 police reservists, down 82% from the 63 592 in 2010, according to a response given by the SAPS in response to a parliamentary question.
“Rural communities are specially affected by the lack of policing and the Democratic Alliance (DA) repeatedly called for the introduction of rural safety units,” shadow deputy police minister Dianne Kohler Barnard said last year. “The steep drop in SAPS reservists means South Africans and farming communities in particular, continue to live in fear. Equally our police are so stretched they are set up for failure,” she said.
“The reality is millions living in rural communities are under siege from violent and vicious crime,” DA North West provincial leader Joe McGluwa said last month after fatal farm attacks, adding rural areas were becoming “war zones”.
“We want a police service that is well-resourced, well trained and capable of fighting crime at all levels in communities across the length and breadth of South Africa,” he said.
Police statistics released in mid-2018 showed farm attacks increased to 561 for the 2017/18 year, while there as a decrease in attacks over the previous three years. The figures show over the six years since 2012, there were 3 059 attacks in total, on average 509.8 a year, in which 338 people were killed averaging 56.3 a year. North West and Gauteng provinces were the worst hit.