Mthethwa amplifies rural safety plans

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Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa says a rural safety plan to be “rolled out” from next month will focus on education and awareness aimed at the farming community and police. It will also focus on compliance with laws, enhancing the police’s intelligence capacity against abuse or lawlessness as well as mobilisation of various stakeholders against any form of crime.

“What we derived from today’s engagement with Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) is commitment to work with government and other stakeholders to fight crime,” Mthethwa said on Thursday, the state BuaNews agency reported. “From the farming environment you often find two diametrically differing views but through this plan, we remain confident that will win this war on crime. We are therefore extremely happy that FAWU is now on board,” Mthethwa said.

FAWU general secretary Katishi Masemola said in order to fight crime on farms, farm workers and farmers needed to work together. He said there are about three million farm dwellers of which about 450 000 are permanently employed at various farms nationally. “Bad treatment of farm workers goes beyond labour or industrial issues which government must look at. We would like to see a more stringent implementation and harsher punishment of these crimes.
“We also do recognise that a lot of good work has been done by police in some cases, particularly in the North West province, where we have witnessed the convictions of perpetrators of these crimes,” he said. Mthethwa said government could not fight crime on farms alone, but needed members of society to help in efforts to fight crime and corruption.

Mthethwa earlier in he week said the police and the country’s biggest farmers’ union AgriSA are to embark on a joint “roadshow” from next month to address rural safety concerns. “We need to ensure that production at farms continues unhindered. We cannot allow crime to be a deterrent,” said Mthethwa after meeting leaders of the fringe right-wing racist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement, AWB).

Andre Botha, chairman of AgriSA’s rural safety committee last Wednesday told Parliament’s police portfolio committee two farmers are attacked every day in South Africa and two killed per week. “The statistics (are) well known: 11 785 attacks, 1804 murders since ’91,” he said, violence that mirrors SA’s national crime plague that sees an average 50 people killed a day. “What is a very worrying aspect is the brutality in which the murders are conducted.”

The briefing followed the recent murder of AWB leader Eugene Terre’Blanche, allegedly by two of his farmworkers, which heightened racial tensions amid anger over a “shoot the boer” (farmer) liberation-era song sung by ruling party youth leader Julius Malema. Botha said one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture was irresponsible remarks from government officials and political leaders, French news agency AFP reported. “The hate speech and the inflammatory remarks should not be tolerated,” said Botha.

Rural safety and farm killings are a racially charged matter in South Africa with official reforms having failed to dent apartheid land patterns that left the bulk of farms in white hands 16 years after majority rule. “A transgression to one is a transgression to all. We want to form a partnership with the authorities,” said Botha. Agricultural unions called on officials not to distinguish between white and black victims on farms. “Black farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers are gravely affected by crime,” said Ismail Motala of the United South African Agricultural Association, which represents some 1800 mainly black farmers in the Western Cape province. “Crime on farms or in the rural communities is not racially based. Crime affects our members and their families all the time.”