In a strong-worded statement released moments ago, Agri SA calls on the police to urgently implement the rural safety strategy which, it believes, could prevent most rural crime, including farm attacks and murders.
SAPS agreed to implement “the most important elements of the strategy” by the end of March. Agri SA now fears it might not be implemented.
“We don’t need more, or any new plans to curb rural crime – just implement the rural safety strategy that was launched in 2019,” says Uys van der Westhuijzen, chairperson of Agri SA’s centre of excellence: rural safety.
Van der Westhuijzen’s plea follows a bloody start to the new year for communities in different provinces.
In the most recent incident, an elderly couple from Crowder, near Umkomaas, was attacked on their farm.
Eric Nunkoo (80) and his wife, Sona (73), were injured after being robbed by three unknown assailants.
Sandy La Marque, CEO of Kwanalu, says farm attacks rob the nation of much-needed skills, wisdom and expertise.
“It is impacting investment and sentiment,” she says.
“Kwanalu is addressing this serious onslaught of crime against the agricultural sector in the province. We call on government and stakeholders to take action now.”
Van der Westhuijzen says, “We call on the police management to urgently attend to the implementation of these (outstanding) elements.
“Agri SA also expressed its support for the strategy. It assured the police of its cooperation in ensuring more effective implementation of the strategy.”
They are, however, very keen on seeing action rather than new plans being made.
This message was also conveyed during a workshop of the inter-ministerial committee on rural and urban safety.
Criminal justice system
In its workshop presentation, Agri SA provided an overview of the most important aspects of the rural safety strategy.
Challenges that could lead to conflict, such as trespassing, land invasions and unlawful protests, were highlighted.
The agricultural industry association believes that the criminal justice system is one of the most important elements in the battle to combat rural crime.
“RURAL COMMUNITIES have the right to be free of all forms of violence.”
Meanwhile Agri SA has lodged complaints with the Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), as well as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), in relation to alleged hate speech by members of the EFF aimed at the farming community.
These comments were made during the court proceedings in Senekal in the Free State on 16 October 2020.
The SAHRC informed Agri SA that various other complaints were currently being investigated.
“It is regrettable, however, that despite several enquiries, the IEC has not yet responded to Agri SA’s written complaints. Agri SA will continue to follow up these complaints with the IEC.”
Van der Westhuijzen says farm attacks have a devastating impact on farming communities, as well as on human rights where citizens of this country have the right to be free of all forms of violence.
“This is something the agricultural community has not experienced over the past few years.”
Importance of rural safety
During the meeting with the SAHRC, the commission was reminded of the critical role that agriculture plays in food production for the nation.
It was reminded that, should the country lose its capacity to produce food, the result could be starvation, which threatens national stability.
Additional inputs by other organised agricultural organisations, as well as rural safety interest groups will now be consolidated into a report for consideration by the inter-ministerial committee. Thereafter, proposals will be made to government,.
Van der Westhuijzen reiterated that Agri SA appreciates Thoko Didiza’s condemnation of the recent attack on the Nunkoo couple.
“Agri SA also welcomes the minister’s recognition of the important role that farmers and farm workers play in sustainable food production in South Africa and the African continent.”