Farm watches working again

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Neighbourhood and farm watches can resume operations, even if it took nine days before clarity emerged on local level security widespread in especially rural agricultural communities.

“It is frustrating and lamentable that confirmation was given nine days after Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, issued a regulation on 28 May, which clearly states people may leave their homes to render a specific service,” Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald said.

According to him the regulation should have been in effect immediately it was issued but this was held up until an announcement confirming it was made by the SA Police Service (SAPS).

Since South Africa was put under lockdown at the end of March when President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster (now extended by a month to mid-July), Groenewald’s party repeatedly warned rural and urban crime was not in lockdown. Formal requests and letters to, among others, Ramaphosa and senior police management, saw no change in the lockdown regulations until level three was announced late last month. Another who was on the receiving end of a plea by the FF+ to allow private security initiatives to operate was Dlamini-Zuma, leader of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

The FF+ is among groups active in rural security, along with representative agricultural organisations such as the TAU (Transvaal Agricultural Union), which have long pushed for rural crime to given a priority rating by the SAPS.

Groenewald pointed to three farm attacks last week as indicative that crime had not stopped in South Africa’s areas of food production during the lockdown.

The first was at Reivilo near Schweizer-Reneke in North West where a man was tortured with boiling water and the second  happened close to Brits, also in North West, when a couple in their sixties were attacked. The man was shot in the leg and taken to hospital in a serious condition. The third attack was in the Mpumalanga provincial capital, Mbombela, where another couple in their sixties had their house invaded.

Welcoming the delayed return of farm and neighbourhood watches, Groenewald said if government heeded earlier calls by the FF+ the number of rural attacks “could have been less”.