Porous Lesotho/SA border a concern

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A porous land border between the Free State and Lesotho is not only an illegal immigration and smuggling problem, but it also raises concerns for the local agricultural community and, in the longer term, food security.

“South Africa’s farmers are national assets who must provide food for a growing urban population and deserve to be considered as both an essential service and a national asset,” is one observation from Democratic Alliance (DA) Free State leader Roy Jankielsohn following a recent visit to the border in the Fouriesburg area.

He said the current low level of the Caledon River allowed for easy movement of people and animals between Lesotho and the eastern Free State.

“We saw no police or soldiers between Fouriesburg and Golden Gate National Park – an area where border crime is cited as one cause of economic damage to farmers also influencing the value of their farms,” he said, adding theft of seed is the latest addition to the criminal booty list along with livestock, agricultural equipment and vehicles.

Jankielsohn maintains rural crime does not discriminate between subsistence, emerging and commercial farmers.

“The SA Police Service (SAPS) in eastern Free State does not have sufficient resources – personnel and vehicles – to do proper visible policing. Additionally, crime scenes are not visited timeously, essential if evidence for successful investigations and prosecutions is to be obtained,” was another observation.

He sees the best deterrent for rural – and other – crime being that criminals or “wannabe” lawbreakers know they will be tracked down, successfully prosecuted and punished. Poor prosecution of criminals, especially for livestock theft, and a dysfunctional South African criminal justice system sees less crime reported with criminals in rural areas becoming more confident.

“Because government fails in its duty to protect its citizens, farmers have to protect themselves by way of regular farm patrols and expensive technology. This causes additional costs for farmers already having to deal with increased input costs,” he said.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) deploys 15 sub-units (companies) for Operation Corona border protection and safeguarding duties in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and North West, with the National Security Strategy requiring deployment of 22 sub-units for these duties. The reduced budget allocation will see the current 15 sub-unit deployment retained.