Headlines in Mpumalanga in past weeks have painted a worrying picture of a province riddled with crime. Corruption, murder, robbery and hijacking are reported on an almost weekly basis.
Official police statistics for the first quarter of the current financial year (April to June 2021) also show a year-on-year increase in almost all categories of crime in the province, even when compared to pre-lockdown years.
Farmers and their properties are not spared.
The CEO of Mpumalanga Agriculture, Robert Davel, says that the industry suffers annual losses of millions of rands due to crime on farms.
That is despite all precautionary measures taken by producers towards crime prevention, which in itself collectively costs millions each year. “Some producers even make use of security guards 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to prevent crime on their farms,” he tells Food For Mzansi. “You can imagine the cost of this exercise for an individual.”
Appealing to members to help
“Mpumalanga Agriculture constantly encourages our members to be actively involved in farm guard patrols and operations in collaboration with the local rural safety coordinator of SAPS [the South African Police Service]. We also encourage our members to attend local CPF [Community Police Forum] meetings,” Davel says.
In the prevention of stock theft, the organisation supports continuous appeals by industry role players that farmers comply with the Stock Theft Act regarding livestock identification with a registered brand.
Yet, despite these measures, the losses continue.
“Unfortunately, not all crime is reported by producers,” says Davel. He suspects that a major reasons for this trend is “probably unsatisfactory service by investigating officers with consequent poor results in terms of prosecution”.
“Fact of the matter is, as long as the public buys stolen items, there will be a market for stolen items and as long as that market exists, criminals will continue with crime.”
Davel pleads with the public not to purchase stolen meat – or any other suspected stolen items for that matter – because it harms farmers.
‘Cele’s National Rural Safety Strategy, defective’
Although police minister Bheki Cele launched the National Rural Safety Strategy in October 2018 to protect farmers, which Mpumalanga Agriculture fully supported, Davel says the implementation of this well-compiled strategy is extremely defective in their province.
Mpumalanga Agriculture will, however, continue to offer their assistance with the implementation of the strategy.
How Mpumalanga can win the battle against crime
Davel tells Food For Mzansi that authorities need to get basic elements in place to begin to win the battle against crime. He lists the following:
- Command and control in the police service must improve drastically to win the respect and support from the private sector and the public in general. Trust and a good relationship between the police and the public, built on an undisputed track record of success by the police, must be a priority.
- Professional service, equivalent to that in the private sector, by disciplined officials will create extremely necessary respect from the public. Sad to say, but this necessary respect to our national police force is currently missing. The attitude of SAPS members regarding responsibility, from the lowest rank, can make the difference between success and failure.
- SAPS members need to be more efficient with the limited manpower and equipment they have available. Efficient management despite limitations is crucial.
- Well-prepared dockets will contribute to an improvement in terms of the success rate with prosecutions.
- Applicable sentences on conviction may contribute to prevent crime.
- Effective use of information to act preventively can make a huge difference in terms of success.
- Effective communication between the private sector and SAPS is indispensable for success against crime.
Davel adds that “despite the mentioned shortcomings on the side of SAPS, our members will continue to take hands with those dedicated individuals within the police service to support them in the fight against crime”.
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