The recent spate of farm attacks and murders has apparently not been sufficient to galvanise Parliament into action with a request for a debate being turned down by National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete.
The request was submitted by Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader, Dr Pieter Groenewald who made it in the light of statistics showing a farm attack took place “just about every day in South Africa” and a farmer was murdered “nearly every four days”.
A meeting last year between Acting National Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane, and Centurion-headquartered civil society organisation, AfriForum, saw farm attacks and murders uprated to that of priority crimes.
A police statement issued last May said incidents of crime and violence on farms and smallholdings have been identified as an emerging priority in the 2016/17 financial year.
Groenewald said in a statement the speaker informed him “attacks on farmers are a serious issue, but that does not justify an immediate debate”.
“This decision is shocking and inappropriate and is a clear reflection of the attitude of government to farm attacks.
“Especially worrying is the increase in the number of murders and farm attacks over the last few years, as well as the brutality accompanying them. The national police service has not succeeded in safeguarding rural areas,” he said.
Speaking after last week’s release of national crime statistics Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of police, Zakhele Mbhele, said Police Minister Nathi Nhleko should “pressure” his Public Works counterpart, Thulas Nxesi, to improve rural policing facilities and infrastructure.
Mbhele said the statistics for the first three-quarters of the 2016/17 financial year showed 46 people were killed on farms and smallholdings compared to 50 for the entire previous financial year.
A 10 year analysis of murder trends in South Africa done by the DA revealed, among others, the five police stations in North West province showing the highest increase in murder – between 200 and 700% – were all overwhelmingly rural. They are Setlagole, Mooinooi, Mothutlung, Mooifontein and Kgomotso.
“The same holds true for the five worst performing towns in Mpumalanga where the murder rate increased by between 133% and 200%; as well as in Limpopo (between 200% and 400%); KwaZulu-Natal (between 150% and 700%); Free State (233% and 800%); Eastern Cape (220% and 400%) and Northern Cape (200% and 600%),” he said adding an increase in stock theft was another indicator of the urgent need for the establishment of rural safety units.
Last month, FF+ Mpumalanga leader Werner Weber, called for the re-establishment of the commando system as part of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). This came in the wake of the killing of a family of four on a farmer outside Balfour, less than 100km from Johannesburg.
Prior to being disbanded by then president Thabo Mbeki in 2003, the Commandos operated as a home guard and were responsible for security at National Key Points (NKPs) as well as assisting the police with border protection.
“When the Commandos were discontinued there was an undertaking from government for another structure in their place. A rural security plan was announced but as of now is still not fully operational,” Weber said.