Fear and tension are the two emotions that KwaZulu-Natal farmers express as the number of attacks on farms continues to rise, and confidence is dwindling on the police’s ability to restore law and order.
Two farm attacks were reported in the province in just the last week. The first was reported in Estcourt on Monday, 8 November after Malcom Moor (85), his wife Doreen (81) and their son John were held at gunpoint and handcuffed in their home by five armed men during load shedding.
Just a day later, in the evening of Tuesday, 9 November, a 56-year-old unnamed woman was brutally attacked and hacked with a panga during a farm attack in Middelrus between Mooi River and Greytown. The attack was reportedly carried out by a “group of people” who had entered her farmhouse.
An undermining of law enforcement
Sandy La Marque, CEO of Kwanalu, says these attacks are causing an air of concern in some areas in the province and tension in others, as residents are seeing very few arrests in the province.
“From the July riots which took place, it is very concerning that very few people were arrested. To date, there is still no convictions. There was a great deal of evidence from video, WhatsApps, Facebook, etc.
“Unless law and order are upheld by the South African Police Service, [the department of] justice and others, this will continue [and] undermine law enforcement in KZN.”
La Marque tells Food For Mzansi that another irksome aspect of governance in the province, is that long-outstanding matters are not resolved and many commitments for special interventions, made towards the community, are never brought to fruition.
Last year the departments of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta), and transport, community safety and liaison, together with the provincial house of traditional leaders, signed a protocol agreement in Ulundi to improve rural safety.
Among the key points of the initiative, was that committees would be formed to sit in traditional councils and to relay information on crime from the community to the police. This was to formalise communication between traditional leaders and the police.
Developments about the agreement and how it has improved rural safety in the area have not been shared or documented.
“The state of SAPS in KwaZulu-Natal is also very worrying. For example, there are limited resources and budgets, poor work ethic and numerous cases not attended to,” La Marque says.
‘Urgent and focused attention needed from police’
La Marque says Kwanalu’s expectation from government and the police is for urgent and focused attention to crime and the upholding of law and order. They needed 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.”
La Marque further says that, following Kwanalu’s visits to all districts in the province to discuss safety and security issues, they are working on the concerns of farmers and engaging them at all levels. “Kwanalu is always concerned when an attack takes place. Crime is having a severe impact on the rural and agricultural sector.”
The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for agriculture and rural development, Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, is also very concerned about the continued attack on farmers.
“I would like to reiterate that an attack on a farmer is an attack on the country’s food security. Their role is very important in ensuring sustainable food production for the nation and the continent at large.”
The MEC calls on the law enforcement agencies to do whatever it takes to apprehend these criminals so that justice can take its course.
Uys van der Westhuijzen, chairman of Agri SA’s centre of excellence for rural safety, says the picture of farm attacks from a national perspective looks bleak.
He tells Food For Mzansi that they receive a steady stream of reports from farmers about farm attacks and murders, not only against farm owners but also against farmworkers and their families.
“The attacks and murders are many and at times brutal and out of proportion, if one can put it like that. We also have ‘normal’ burglaries, which is a major concern to Agri SA.
“What is more concerning is the fact that many of these incidents occur during the curfew period, when no-one is supposed to be outside their residences. The question one can ask is, ‘Why are vehicles and people allowed to travel and walk about when the law states quite clearly that this is an offence?’ ”
Van der Westhuijzen wonders whether the criminals are even afraid of getting caught, because the current arrest rate, judiciary system and sentencing in the country are in such a state that it does not pose a threat to criminals.
“This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
Load shedding can have a further serious influence on the increase of crime, he adds. It has an effect on the alarm systems and stretches the capabilities of many security companies to the extreme.
Load shedding requires extra vigilance from the farming community. It is therefore critical that farmers need to ensure they have adequate extra power supplies (for example, batteries, generators and solar panels) available to ensure that their alarm, camera, communication and light systems are operational even during extended periods of load shedding.
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