Last week’s first ever parliamentary debate on farm murders has been followed by another call for action, this time in the Free State provincial legislature.
Wouter Wessels, FF+ Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL), said it was high time a new plan was formulated to deal with farm attacks and murders. He was speaking during the debate on the provincial budget vote for police, roads and traffic earlier this week.
“Farms murders are often accompanied by shocking cruelty, for example where elderly people are burnt with irons and people have holes drilled in their feet by assailants,” he said in support of his call for a new plan of action of deal with the twin issues of farm attacks and murders in the largely agricultural central province of South Africa.
He called on the Free State farming community to up security for themselves, their families and their workers because “government was not doing enough to protect them”. Reports from statistics and information collected by the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) indicate there have been 26 murders on South African farms in the first two months of the year. TAU general manager Bennie van Zyl is quoted as saying January and February “have been the bloodiest yet experienced”.
Earlier this month the National Assembly was told the world average for murders was seven for every 100 000 of population, in South Africa it was 33 for every 100 000. When it came to police the number rose to 54 per 100 000 and for farmers it stood at 133 per 100 000. FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald said this made it “nearly three times more dangerous to be a farmer in South Africa than a policeman”.
Agricultural representative organisations and political parties maintain the disbandment of the commando system in 2003 by then president Mbeki was a major contributing factor to the increase in crime, including murder, in rural area.
“Mbeki undertook to establish something in place of the commando system. Sector policing would have filled this role but it is not effective enough and many police stations in rural areas have not yet started with it,” Groenewald said.
According to him, Upington in Northern Cape is one example of under-resourcing. The police station there apparently has one vehicle and four policemen to serve 104 farms.
Wessels also acknowledged the resource problems, saying they existed in Free State, but he was fulsome in his praise of “honest and hardworking” members of the SA Police Service.
“They serve their communities to the best of their ability with the limited resources available to them,” he said.