Strong leadership needed at rural police stations

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Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police wants the SA Police Service (SAPS) to focus on strengthening leadership at rural police stations if the rural safety strategy is to be effective.

The committee this week received presentations from various stakeholders with the aim of finding workable solutions to the problem of increasing crime in rural areas.

The overarching principle in fighting crime should be anchored on strong leadership, able to develop and implement an effective strategy, coupled with monitoring and evaluation tools to assess the impact. Also strengthening reservists as force multipliers, especially in rural areas, can an effective tool to fight crime in these communities.

The committee highlighted the lack of resources preventing rural police stations from properly fighting crime.
“It is untenable that some rural police stations have only one or two vehicles to serve an extensive area. Add to this the lack of appropriate technology, such as quad bikes, specialised information technology tools, helicopters and 4×4 vehicles. It is all concerning. It hampers effective implementation of the rural safety strategy,” Francois Beukman, portfolio committee chairman, said.

The committee called for consolidation of resources between stakeholders and the police to effectively fight crime.

As regards the illicit economy, including stock theft, the committee highlighted the need for the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster to develop guidelines to ensure criminals are prosecuted effectively.

These concerns apart the committee emphasised the need for a broad, multi-sectoral approach to dealing with crime in rural areas. Jobs-intensive economic growth is central to reducing unemployment and capacitating young people, enabling them to participate in economic activity.
“When people are gainfully employed they will in all likelihood not be inclined to commit crime. Further the departments of Basic Education and Higher Education must play a leading role in rolling out programmes in rural areas to ensure the rural population benefits,” Beukman said.

The committee wants the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to strengthen its role in ensuring improved conditions of service for farm workers and labours, who continue to be subjected to “horrendous treatment”.

Another contributing factor to crime in rural areas is substance abuse, which must be addressed urgently. The Department of Social Development must strengthen its programmes and work with stakeholders in the wider rural community to effectively deal with this problem.
“Above all the SAPS must play a leading role in the fight against crime in rural areas, as envisioned by the National Development Plan. In some areas stakeholders are left to fend for themselves, which should not be the case,” he said.

The committee emphasised the necessity to re-establish specialised units to deal with the rising scourge of crime, including rural crime and wants to see intelligence services playing a leading role in gathering information that will lead to prevention of crimes.

The committee welcomed the commitment by stakeholders, such as AgriSA, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa, to work with police to fight crime. The committee urged all stakeholders to collaboratively and urgently develop a comprehensive rural safety strategy and present it to the committee within a month. The committee emphasised planning represents only half of the work to be done. Effective implementation must be strengthened.