South Africa’s latest crime statistics report shows another quarter in which the Free State farming community was hardest hit by fatal farm attacks.
Police minister Bheki Cele’s crime statistics for the second quarter of the 2021/2022 financial year (July to September 2021), released last week, painted a grim picture of 15 murders that had occurred on farms across the country in a period of three months.
Cele said that this was an increase of two cases, compared to the same period last year.
Despite recording a drop in farm attacks compared to the same period last year – from 19 to 13 – the Free State saw the number of deaths during farm attacks increase from three to seven, which is almost half of the country’s total for the last reported quarter. No arrests have been made.
Free State has a crime problem
Dr Jane Buys, security risk analyst at FSA, says farmers need to be actively involved in matters of rural safety as this was a ticking bomb and could affect any farmer, regardless of race. She adds that a lot more needs to be done to ensure that the safety of farmers and farmworkers is a key priority in all areas.
“[We need to] ensure that there are sound relationships between farmers, their neighbours, workers and the police, especially police rural safety coordinators and station commanders, as well as farm watch structures.”
She urges farmers to make sure communication networks are functional, that they are in radio communication with others and, where possible, that they connect to a safety app in their area.
Farm attacks are having a negative impact on the sector and Buys says this needs to be addressed to avoid instability in food security.
Buys has called on farmers always to be aware of their surroundings and the movement of people, especially towards the festive season.
“Always observe and be alert, especially during evenings. Keep doors locked and closed, look at the security checklist and see where you need to become more vigilant.
“Participate in coordinated initiatives in the rural safety strategy such as white or blue light patrols and crime prevention initiatives, and sharing of information is very important,” cautioned Buys.
FSA confirmed that Harrismith with seven incidents, Bloemspruit with three incidents, and Ficksburg with two incidents, were the province’s hot spots for attacks in the last quarter. Five attacks were on food producers, four on farmworkers, one on a stock speculator and two on persons living on smallholdings.
Last month, FSA also expressed serious concern for the safety of agricultural communities along the Lesotho border, following an incident in which three farmworkers were injured during a shooting incident. One worker later succumbed to his injuries.
The shooting incident on 28 October 2021 is one of six incidents in which victims were killed or shot at in the past month at various border towns, including Wepener, Tweespruit, Ladybrand, the organisation said.
The Eastern Cape, with three murders, saw the second highest farm murder rate in the reported period, while the Western Cape, North West and Limpopo recorded none.
The coordinator of the Northern Cape farmers’ organisation Saamtrek Saamwerk, Sehularo Sehularo, tells Food For Mzansi that it is important that farmers report incidents of violence and open cases. This, as some cases go unreported, according to him.
“There is a lot of unreported incidents of both farmers and farmworkers. Whether [it] be assault or anything, it needs to be reported.”Sehularo Sehularo
“One lost life is too many, because families are being destroyed in such a way. [And] people end up losing jobs because of a farmer being murdered leading to a whole value chain being disrupted.”
A member of the policing forum in the agricultural town of Bloemhof in North West, Yvonne Moeng, said crime was affecting everyone and it was critical for people to form partnerships with policing forums. “Farmers who stay far from town, we encourage to always interact with us as police forums so that we could at all times go past in those areas at night. In the main, such crimes are happening in the outskirts.”
Sandy La Marque, CEO of Kwanalu, recently told Food For Mzansi that farmers’ expectation from government and the police is for urgent and focused attention to crime and the upholding of law and order; to bring criminals to book without fear or favour.
“The National Rural Safety Strategy must be implemented, and an appropriate budget and resources must be allocated, amongst others.”
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