Government has been warned it’s time for serious and appropriate action to halt crime in the agricultural sector which, according to the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) is “threatened by a volatile security situation”.
This is borne out by research undertaken by the national representative agricultural organisation, AgriSA, which shows a quarter of the country’s commercial farmers “experienced robbery” last year.
A contributing factor might be what Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald termed “a great decrease” in the number of police reservists, including in rural areas. The party previously pointed out a shortage of both manpower and other resources was hampering the fight against crime in rural South Africa.
Terence Corrigan, IRR project manager, noted AgriSA’s recent report on crimes affecting the agricultural sector was “a timely call to appreciate the scale of the criminal threat to the farming sector and to take appropriate action”.
The report, based on a survey of agriculturalists affiliated to AgriSA provincial bodies, showed 70% of farms experienced some form of crime in 2017. Stock theft was the most common, followed by theft of infrastructure and equipment.
AgriSA said the cost of crime in the agricultural sector, as researched by Unisa’s Bureau of Market Research (BMR) was R5,45 billion with total replacement cost of, for example, livestock and equipment, estimated at R2,28 billion.
Overall, according to AgriSA, agriculture related crime cost more than R7,7 billion in 2017 alone.
The survey in the wake of the release of annual crime statistics which showed farm and farm related killings to number 47. AgriSA research and statistics showed 62 farm murders last year.
Corrigan maintains the IRR has long argued the agricultural sector faces an outsized threat.
“Official data shows between 2012/13 and 2017/18 there were 353 farm murders. Agri-SA’s study adds additional weight to this. Less remarked on is what that means for South Africa and the farming economy. Concerns about personal safety and the security of assets will drive people away from the industry and dissuade others from entering it. The impact, particularly on smaller operators, will be corrosive over time,” he said.
Research by the FF+ shows the number of police reservists nationally decreased from over 17 000 in 2012 to the current level of 3 002. In terms of an SA Police Service instruction reservists are categorised with operational and rural as separate categories.
Groenewald sees the disturbing downtrend in people volunteering for police reserve duty as a failure on the part of SAPS management.
“The call for communities to become involved and support the police is a false one,” he said adding more use should and must be made of reservists because they are from local communities – including rural ones – and can contribute to the fight against crime.