Any criminal attack on agriculture is an attack on our economy, said Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape agriculture minister, following his visit to an elderly couple who survived a violent attack last year.
Meyer paid a visit to Raymond and Betty O’Grady, the owners of Hillcrest Berry Orchards in Stellenbosch. The pair were attacked in the early hours of 21 August 2020.
“Attacks are very complicated,” remarked Raymond O’Grady during the minister’s visit. “The number of young people looking for work and living alone without family support is problematic. But, I am doing something that I believe can help, and that is why I started Hillcrest.”
Currently, the farm employs 130 people.
Struck by their resilience
“I was struck by the couple’s resilience and their deep sense of commitment and caring for their workers, the community of Stellenbosch and South Africa,” Meyer said.
The attack on the O’Grady farming couple was logged by the Western Cape agriculture department’s rural safety desk and rural safety monitoring dashboard, which was launched in August 2020.
“The rural safety desk and rural safety monitoring dashboard provides a platform to track and monitor all incidents of rural crime,” the minister explained.
“Information received about the safety of agri-workers and producers is captured on the dashboard. It triggers further actions, all aimed at ensuring a speedy investigation and judicial process.”
In the case of the Hillcrest farm attack, the department’s community development officer made contact with the Groot Drakenstein police station on the day of the attack.
“Available information was logged on the dashboard and regularly updated throughout the investigation and trial. By tracking the progress of the case, we were able to ensure that justice triumphed,” said Meyer.
According to O’Grady, the police and state prosecutor have been very helpful during and after the attack.
Meyer concluded, “Rural safety is about ensuring the dignity of our farmers, producer and agri-workers. Any criminal attack on agriculture is an attack on our economy. Therefore, I encourage agricultural stakeholders to log incidents at firstname.lastname@example.org.“