South Africa’s agricultural community, providers of much of the country’s food needs, remains firmly in the sights of criminals with 47 murders and close to 250 farm attacks reported in the first half of the year.
Opposition Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald said the only way to improve this situation was for rural protection to be upgraded to a SA Police Service priority and that criminal intelligence, specifically as regards farm attacks and murders, start “functioning properly”.
Referring to a farm attack near Wolmaransstad in North West last month, the 246th reported to date this year, Groenewald pointed out farmers “themselves” went after and caught the attackers. Making matters worse, according to him, is one of the suspects nabbed by members of the local farming community was reportedly a policeman.
“This indicates, to me, SAPS are failing to remove criminal elements from their own ranks in spite of Police Minister Fikile Mbalula’s undertaking to the contrary.
“The high crime rate in South African requires more than just the Minister paying lip service – the police need to act,” he said, adding it appeared police were losing the war against criminals.
Agricultural representative organisation, the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU), said in addition to the “tragedy” of human lives lost in farm attacks, farmers also have to put up with theft of produce, equipment and tools as well as endure trespassing, arson and illegal land occupation. The organisation is undertaking a survey of products and services, such as early warning systems, that can nip potential criminal offences in the bud.
This was welcomed by Groenewald as are safety systems TAU has already either put in place or mobilised among groups of farmers.
“If it wasn’t for this type of work done by the farmers themselves, the murder and attack statistics would have been significantly higher,” he said, adding he would again raise the issue at a Parliamentary Police Portfolio Committee meeting.
“I will also be demanding explanations for what is being done to improve protection and crime intelligence in rural areas.”