While a police hunt is underway following the brutal murder of an Eastern Cape farmer, Darryl Richter, Agri Eastern Cape has called on the authorities to prioritise rural safety.
He was killed on Saturday, 26 June while on an evening patrol on a nearby farm road to investigate a suspicious vehicle. It is understood that Richter, from the farm Waterfall just outside East London, was in an altercation with three armed men in this vehicle.
He was stabbed in the head and spine, but was able to shoot two of the suspects before dying from a gunshot. The third attacker apparently fled the scene on foot and was potentially wounded during the altercation.
Richter previously survived a farm attack in Butterworth. News of his death send shock waves through the Eastern Cape agricultural community. A week earlier, in an unrelated incident, John Viedge (79) was killed in front of his wife on their farm in the area of Nqanarhu, formerly known as Maclear.
Lack of visible policing in rural areas
Agri Eastern Cape now calls on the provincial police to implement its rural safety strategy to protect vulnerable farms and workers.
The organisation’s rural safety chairperson, Alfonso van Niekerk, says the current shortfalls in the rural safety strategy all point to a lack of visible policing in rural and farm areas.
While one of the pillars in the strategy is a so-called back-to-basics approach, Van Niekerk suggests that little to none has been done to address this.
“At each police station, there are supposed to be a rural safety coordinator equipped with a vehicle and cellphone. Many of our police stations do not have it yet,” Van Niekerk tells Food For Mzansi.
He says often vehicles and police officers that were meant for rural safety efforts are roped into doing other tasks. “Many times, a rural safety officer has to do other work as well, then he does not meet his rural obligations. So, the officer is then no longer focused on farm safety solely.”
Rural safety problems? What problems?
Covid-19 seems to have worsened relations between the police and the Eastern Cape agricultural community. Van Niekerk says it has been difficult to have regular meetings with the police in the last year.
“At this stage, there is a bit of a communication problem. But there are certain guidelines in the rural safety strategy and when these goals should be achieved.
“The rural safety strategy is an excellent plan that we as farmers agree with. But executing is the problem.”
The provincial head for corporate communication and liaison, brigadier Tembinkosi Kinanan, tells Food For Mzansi they are not aware of any challenges with the rural safety strategy.
He says, “The South African Police Service has always treated the issue of farm attacks as one of its top priorities, hence an emphasis has been put on sector managers and rural policing operations.”
‘A brave, armed, law-abiding citizen’
Meanwhile, Richter’s killing has also sparked an outcry over the controversial Firearms Control Amendment Bill.
DA shadow minister of state security, Dianne Kohler, believes Richter’s murder underscores the importance of farmers being able to own a firearm for self-defense purposes.
“This is what South African farmers are facing on a 24/7 basis, and if minister [Bheki] Cele gets his way, Richter would have been murdered, and the perpetrators would have driven off – perhaps to attack his wife and babies,” Kohler says in a media statement.
In a Twitter post, the Firearms SA founder Ian Cameron describer Richter as a hero. He tweets, “As a brave, armed, law-abiding citizen, he paid the ultimate price for that. He, like others was a custodian of his community’s safety. If SAPS fulfilled their mandate, he wouldn’t have had to patrol.”
Richter is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.