New focus on farm security


The government bemoans every farm killing and will tackle the problem in every province, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson says.

“It is not just the killing of a white farmer but also [that of] the workers we condemn,” Joemat-Pettersson told a gathering of black and white commercial farmers at Senekal in the Free State yesterday. The South African Press Association reports Joemat-Pettersson said the murder of white farmers should not be labelled race crimes as this was not the case. She said farmers were isolated in rural areas and easy targets.

Joemat-Pettersson said the Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa would soon visit every province in the country to fine-tune a rural safety strategy. She was visiting the Makolobane Farmers Enterprise at Senekal belonging to successful black commercial farmer Pitso Sekhoto during the farm’s apple harvesting.

The minister participated in the harvest and used the opportunity to discuss agriculture issues with local farmers, SAPA added. The event was also used to celebrate a case of land reform success. She said the department was planning similar events to show case the establishment of a successful black-owned commercial farm in every province.

The minister stressed that the government did not want white commercial farmers to leave the country. “If they leave a skills and knowledge package, build up over years, is leaving the country.”

She said other African countries recognised South African farmers’ skills and hoped to attract them, but added: “We want to keep them.”

Mthethwa last October said South African rural areas would benefit from equipment purchased for the 2010 FIFA World Cup as police rolled out their strategy to make these areas safer. Speaking at the launch of the Rural Safety Plan in Nigel, Police Minister Nathi said the time for talking about rural safety was over and the time for action had arrived. “We secured a lot of high powered vehicles and [rural] terrain dictates the use of certain types of vehicles, so we want to see those vehicles here. We also have helicopters that were secured for 2010 and their job now is to help in the fight against crime,” he said. The state BuaNews agency added Mthethwa said they faced a logistics challenge in distributing personnel and resources between urban and rural areas.

Police have stressed that rural safety was not limited to farming, but also included broader communities living in rural areas. The minister noted that people in rural areas faced the same issues of crime as those in urban areas and also needed to feel safe. He added that police were addressing issues such as the murders of farmers and workers, as well as stock theft. Mthethwa called on farming communities to work together to improve their safety.

Andre Botha, chairperson of AgriSA in Gauteng, said at the same event commercial farmers would support the Rural Safety Plan vigorously. “Farm murders are a problem throughout South Africa, especially in Gauteng. We have the unfortunate status of being the province with the most farm murders. Together, we can alleviate the problem and go forward to create a better society for all,” Botha said.