Border security is by its nature ranked alongside rural security, sharing dangers including abduction and attackers escaping to a neighbouring country.
Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald wants more government resources should be allocated for both. His party, along with the Democratic Alliance (DA) and representative agricultural organisations including AgriSA and the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) have long called for rural security to be improved and for attacks on and murders of farmers, their families and workers to be declared priority crimes.
According to Groenewald, a suspect in a farm attack at Zastron in Free State, 30 km from the Lesotho border, was released by police in the mountain kingdom “because South African police failed to make the necessary arrangements.
Following the Zastron attack an 80-year-old woman, injured when hit with a panga by one of four suspects, was abducted in her own vehicle, taken across the border and abandoned on a deserted roadside in icy conditions.
“One suspect was arrested, but subsequently released by Lesotho police after three weeks in custody. Reports have it South African police not only failed to fetch the suspect within a prescribed time, they also failed to submit extradition documents,” Groenewald said. The incident would be “taken further”.
The dangers faced by rural communities, especially those near an international border, were highlighted last month by Roy Jankielsohn, Democratic Alliance (DA) Free State provincial legislature representative.
Following an oversight visit to the Clarens/Fouriesburg area he said: “Rural communities on this border are regular victims of farm attacks, theft of livestock, vehicles, equipment and other crimes. My visit showed no fence or other barrier to prevent people crossing the border”.
Jankielsohn points to the dissolution of what was South Africa’s “home guard” – the commandos – between 2005 and 2008 as a loss to both border protection and rural security.
“Soon after the DA put forward alternative policy options and subsequently produced and since updated and implemented a rural safety working group with representatives in all nine provinces,” he said, adding a request for a rural safety debate in Parliament was made by DA MPs. The request has been agreed to by The Speaker but a date has not yet been given for it.