Farmers in the northern part of the Free State fear an increase in crime after the deployment of rural police resources to the Gauteng border. This, after government banned leisure travel to and from Gauteng with a series of roadblocks to control access to the province.
In a media release, Free State Agriculture (FSA) and the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO) says this could possibly lead to a gap in policing in rural areas. They therefore request farmers to show greater preparedness, vigilance and attentiveness to avoid farm attacks and other crime.
FSA vice president Tommie Esterhuyse says many safety coordinators are being withdrawn from their daily tasks in rural areas to work at roadblocks.
“Liaison of suspicious persons, vehicles and movement, especially during curfew times, must be taken seriously by agricultural communities, especially where farm guard structures are established,” he says.
Furthermore, FSA recommends that so-called “white light patrols” be increased in, especially, the northern part of the Free State. Information about suspicious activities should be passed on to safety representatives of agricultural associations and rural safety coordinators.
Meanwhile, Isabel Kruger, chairperson of the Stock Theft Prevention Forum of the RPO, also says that there is a worrying increase in stock theft.
The northern Free State, in particular, is suffering from large numbers of livestock (more than 30) being stolen at a time.
“The fact that auctions have currently been stopped by the government at level 4 [of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations] should have a significant decrease in the transport of livestock to auction houses, but this will not stop the informal demand and supply of livestock.
“It can also contribute to slaughters that take place on farms where meat is transported to identified outlets,” she says.
Increase in cross-border crime
According to Jakkals le Roux, chairman of the FSA safety committee, there is also currently an increase in cross-border crime activities against the border of South Africa and Lesotho. In this area, farming communities have in the last few years become a target for criminals who easily cross the border to Lesotho.
Often, these criminals steal livestock of up to 50 animals at a time along with implements and products, including solar panels. Further crimes such as the cutting of wires and farmers’ fields being set on fire are also taking place.
“In the past week, copper cables from Eskom substations and MTN towers in the Clarens and Fouriesburg area were stolen and vandalised on several occasions.
“This creates a great safety risk for agricultural communities that have to manage without cell phone signals or electricity supply,” says Le Roux.
FSA calls on the army and the police to create higher visibility in the cross-border areas that can also be accompanied by white and blue light patrols. The involvement and participation of especially younger farmers in safety structures is of cardinal importance, the organisation says.