Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille (pictured) wants the police to beef up its rural crime fighting ability. But this must be balanced with a development initiative to ensure that farmers and their workers benefit from agriculture.
Zille made the call at a media conference at Parliament in Cape Town as part of an assessment of the weekend murder of Eugene Terre’Blance, leader of the right wing Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB – Afrikaner Resistance Movement) by two of his farm-workers, one of whom is a boy aged 15 years.
She says Terre’Blanche’s murder had “unleashed a tidal wave of pent up rage and frustrations in section of our society. The context explains why. For over a decade now, farmers and farming communities have been on the receiving end of escalating criminal violence, and 3368 (farmers) have been murdered.” Zille also blamed ANC Youth League president Julius Malema for making popular again an old struggle song, the lyrics of which included the phrase, “kill the boer” (farmer). She said that it was not only farmers that were on the receiving end of criminal activities, but that workers also suffered from crime. “The workers suffer at the hands of crime just like anyone else.” .
One of the steps that Zille says is needed for improving rural safety is the reinforcement of police stations in those areas, which she says includes staffing them properly and implanting sector policing strategies. “The sector strategies have never been properly implemented … and this needs to be implemented and monitored at the highest level, and held to account by the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Police,” she said. Institute for Security Studies Africa Peace Missions programme head Henri Boshoff last month told defenceWeb’s Border Control conference sector policing has never moved beyond rhetoric.
Another step should be the creation of a specialised Border and Rural Safety division within the police that will be directly accountable for all aspects of rural safety. A key function of this division should be the coordination of the five specialised rural reaction units and a rural intelligence centre, Zille says. This centre must be responsible for empowering residents of rural areas with reliable information regarding crime trends and statistics, and communications systems, she says.
Zille said that the personnel of these units should receive specialised paramilitary training that will enable them to stabilise an area within a short time and prevent further attacks. “The DA opposed the disbandment of the Commandos [the rear-area protection component of the SA Army] and nothing has been implemented to replace them,” she said. Former President Thabo Mbeki announced their demobilisation in 2003 and the last commando – that in Harrismith in te Free Stae province – closed in 2008.
The DA plan also proposes that a police divisional commissioner be appointed to co-ordinate and lead these structures. “By creating such a post it would make rural safety a priority, and that those who feed the nation, and who face danger on a daily basis, are adequately protected,” Zille said.