South Africa’s crime rate has soared in recent months, leaving the police overwhelmed by the escalating violence. Farmers, their families, and farmworkers have been targeted with increasing brutality, bearing the brunt of a surge in murder, assault, and property theft.
Not only are farmers preparing for a hectic festive season that is around the corner, but they are also setting up alarms and beefing up security in their farming operations.
Going into the festive season, a recent report by police minister Bheki Cele to Parliament indicated that from July to September this year, 6 945 people were murdered in South Africa.
Farmers losing hope
Following the appearance by Cele together with the top brass of the South African Police Service (SAPS) before the portfolio committee on police, farmers said they have lost hope because crime in Mzansi is out of control.
Llewellyn Louw, a young farmer in Jacobsdal in the Free State, said earlier this year he and business partners lost over R45 000 after their farm was broken into. Even though a criminal case was opened, months down the line their hard-earned money will never be returned and no one will take responsibility.
“Crime is bad in our area, I believe that substance abuse is one element that contributes to the many social ills that we have in our community.
“This year, they broke into the poultry house and stole 20 chickens with heat lamps and five bags of feed. I do not know how they did it but it happened. No one has been arrested and the matter is still under investigation,” he said.
Pumping money into security
Another disgruntled farmer, Wessels Wessels, a livestock farmer in Vrede in the Free State, said it is not sustainable that besides producing food for the nation, farmers continue to pump money into security for their farms.
“Crime is out of control. In a period of a year a farmer spent over R300 000 just on security and safety around the farm. That is on top of the operational costs that we are enduring as farmers.
“With the rate of crime in South Africa I think we are at the point of no return because nothing works in this country. Soon farmers will close up their operations. If it’s not crime it, potholes, load shedding, and refuse collection not working, while on top of that just like everyone farmers pay tax, it is unfair,” he said.
There is still a lot to be done
While violent crime has gone up in the third quarter of this year (July-September), Cele said the drop in murder cases was a reflection of the police’s continued efforts to combat crime through decisive police action and robust community involvement.
“I wish to make this point very clear, the second consecutive drop in the country’s murder figures is in no way a claim of any victory by the SAPS. While there are green shoots, one murder is one too many.
“We believe the declines are as a result of a combination of operational policing strategies as well as policy interventions that are helping to bring the numbers down,” Cele said.
Cele explained that contact crimes have seen a 2.1% increase, with murder decreasing by 0.8%, assault to do grievous bodily harm increased by 2.5%, common assault by 2.2%, robbery by 3.7%, and robbery with aggravating circumstances by 1.1%.
Cele said that compared to the last year, the same period of stock theft has seen a 5.5% decrease.
Be alert at all times
Agri SA provincial chamber and head of rural safety Kobus Visser said the coming season farmers should still be alert because when people start relaxing, criminals then use that opportunity to commit a crime.
“The minister has announced the festive season programmes and various operations will take place, so I think they have already started beefing up security measures for the festive season.
“That is why we encourage our farmers to be alert of any suspicious movements or vehicles that they see in the area before reporting it to the local police,” he said.
He believes that proactive measures are as simple as having a dog, an alarm system or a security gate. These all help in giving a warning if there is an intruder on the property.
“These measures do not necessarily ward off a farm attack, however, they can slow down an attack and make it more difficult for the intruder to carry out the crime. Also, they assist the farmer in scaring away the intruder,” he said.
He explained to Food For Mzansi that several cameras are now installed on the travelling routes in rural areas and that helps deter crime in the area as it scares away criminals, which helps reduce criminal cases.
“We would also like to urge our farmers to work with local police and report all criminal and suspicious activity to the police to investigate these crimes,” he said.
A prime time for attacks and murders
Meanwhile, Free State Agriculture (FSA) safety risk analyst Jane Buys said the upcoming season is a time when farm murders and attacks increase.
“In this season, there is a high possibility that we could experience more farm attacks and murders and property-related crimes like livestock, diesel, seed, fertiliser and products, commodity articles, and vehicle theft.
“We see a lot of theft that is reported at police stations where farmers report cable theft and even solar panel theft. This is a big issue that farmers need to be careful of, observing and reporting these crimes and suspicious movement and activity,” Buys said.
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