Political parties looking to improve rural security

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President Cyril Ramaphosa is to be personally appraised of the worsening rural safety and security situation by letter and steps have been proposed to ensure speedier court proceedings of those charged with farm attacks and murders.

These developments, announced this week by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus (FF+), come in the wake of further rural attacks in the first week to July. In one of this month’s attacks a pregnant Indian woman had her throat cut by unknown assailants on the family farm in Weenen, KwaZulu-Natal.

In response FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald said the attack should serve to bring home the reality of farm murders – “denied and dismissed by the greater part of South African society and government for too long.

He will inform the President, in writing, of the Weenen incident and the increase in rural attacks and stress the widely held impression that only white farmers are targeted in wrong.

“All South African farmers are being targeted and murdered. This is a serious threat to food security and the President cannot delay taking action any longer,” he said adding the “senseless massacre” of farmers, their families and workers had become too much.

“The increasing number of attacks and the extraordinary brutality of some are surely enough proof this is not ordinary crime, but organised crime that calls for urgent attention,” Groenewald said.

At the same time DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard, shadow state security minister, made public a party initiative to assist in farm attacks and put those guilty behind bars.

“The situation in our rural areas is now beyond urgent, with a sharp rise in terrible attacks and murders in June,” she said in reference to the at least 27 criminal incidents on farms and smallholdings nationally last month.

Explaining the rural safety court watching briefs unit, she said: “In 2001 for every 100 violent crimes (murder, rape and aggravated robbery) reported to police, in only six cases were perpetrators convicted after more than two years.  Just six!

“Twenty years on and there are claims law enforcement has all but collapsed. The National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi says the system is buckling in the face of rising crime and dismally low prosecution rates. Last year prosecution rates for serious offences were as low as two percent.

“The Watching Briefs initiative was introduced by the Department of Community Safety in Western Cape to act in accordance with Constitutional provisions indicating every province is entitled to monitor police conduct and report inefficiencies.

The Western Cape unit’s work prevents cases being dropped from the roll and helps achieve convictions on the basis of evidence.

“The DA’s Rural Safety Watching Briefs Unit will act as an unofficial go-between between police, prosecution services and victims of farm attacks or related crimes. Unit members will act in the best interests of the victim or victims and as a go-between to facilitate proceedings and achieve an optimum outcome.

“It will be a method of assisting various state entities and victims to achieve, as unobtrusively as is possible, a quick and just outcome of investigations or prosecutions,” she said.

As an example of the justice system failing South Africans Kohler Barnard gave the example of a DA councillor who farms.

“She was brutally attacked more than five years ago and despite DNA proof, the alleged attacker is still free and living near her. Why and how could this possibly happen in South Africa today?

“What chance does a farmer have to see justice done if he, his family, a farm manager, a farmworker or a visitor is attacked or murdered?”