Call for Parliament to debate rural crime

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Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Dianne Kohler Barnard maintains there has been a surge in the number of reported farm attacks since the lockdown instituted as part of the national coronavirus prevention campaign.

“The attacks are heinous with brutal torture commonplace in rural attacks,” she said when calling for an urgent Parliamentary debate on rural crime, including murder of farmers and their workers.

Kohler Barnard, who chairs her party’s rural safety work stream, said it was now critical Parliament highlighted the plight of South Africa’s wider rural community.

“Government can no longer deny rural safety. The DA believes these attacks are a national emergency and must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” she said in the same week the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) reported the murder of a Mpumalanga farmer and urged that province’s agricultural community to band together in the fight against rural crime.

“Police and SA Police Service (SAPS) facilities in Mpumalanga have been targeted by criminals,” said Werner Weber, FF+ provincial leader.

“The same day the farmer was killed at Sundra near Delmas, the Bosbokrand Police Station was targeted with officers on duty attacked and six firearms stolen,” he said adding one policeman was in a critical condition after being shot in the stomach.

“This is more proof criminals have no regard for the police.

“One cannot help but wonder how ordinary citizens are supposed to feel safe and secure if trained police officers are attacked and robbed in a police station, supposedly a symbol of safety and security.

Among issues Kohler Barnard wants Parliament to debate and take note of are the need for research and statistics, better interaction with organised agriculture, an increase in support for emerging farmers, a better relationship between farmers and police, the re-introduction of specialised police units and for farm murder to be re-categorised as priority crimes.

She also wants farm murders to be reported as hate crimes. “They are based on two factors – firstly, the act is considered a crime under South African law and secondly, it is motivated wholly or partially by prejudice or hatred regarding an aspect of the victims’ identity.

“Hate crimes are not crimes committed against vulnerable groups, hate crimes are crimes committed against individuals because of prejudice the perpetrator holds against an entire group of people, but is directed at an available victim,” Kohler Barnard explained.