Opposition Freedom Front Plus (FF+) party leader Dr Pieter Groenewald this week told MPs it was “nearly three times more dangerous to be a farmer in South Africa than it is to be a policeman”.
Proof of this, he said during a debate on farm attacks and murders, was that 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 comes to police the number stands at 54 per 100 000 and for farmers it is 133 per 100 000.
He was supported by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the form of shadow agriculture minister, Annette Steyn, and shadow police minister Zakhele Mbhele.
Steyn told the National Assembly the 2015/126 year saw 18 673 murders committed in South Africa.
“It is an average of 51.2 per day. We have become so accustomed to this we don’t even blink an eye anymore,” she said, adding the brutality found in at least some farm murders was shocking.
She gave the examples of Sue Howarth and Nicci Simpson. Howarth died after two days in intensive care after being repeatedly stabbed, having her breasts burnt and a plastic bag forced down her throat. Simpson was reportedly tied to a chair and tortured with an electric drill. She survived.
Both she and Groenewald told the National Assembly attacks and murders were not confined to whites with the FF+ leader pointing out that 40% of farm attack victims were black.
As far as better protection for South Africa’s agricultural community was concerned, Groenewald said: “Former president [Thabo] Mbeki undertook to establish something in place of the commando system which he disbanded [in 2003]. Sector policing would have filled this role. This is not effective enough and many police stations in rural areas have not yet started with it”.
As an example of under-resourcing he gave Upington in Northern Cape where there is reportedly one vehicle and four policemen to serve 184 farms.
Steyn put it to fellow MPs that farm attacks must be classified as a priority crime so that more resources can be allocated to rural safety units. “The SA Police Service is currently under-resourced and the rural safety strategy is not properly implemented,” she said.
She would also like to see the police reservist programme in rural areas implemented properly with a concerted effort to recruit and train farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers because “current requirements to become reservists are seen as a stumbling block”.
On police reservists, Mbhele said SAPS was “missing a huge opportunity in the fight against farms attacks and other rural crimes”.
“The White Paper on Policing is clear is clear that ‘effective use of reservists contributes to strengthening policing at station level and the implementation of crime prevention initiatives’.”
He said the reservist corps has “shrunk, is poorly managed and almost impossible to get into due to inexplicably stringent eligibility criteria in the revised regulations.
“A larger SAPS reservist corps would act as a force multiplier getting more boots on the ground for visible patrolling and rapid response, plugging gaps and helping to spread the workload,” he said.