Although police minister Bheki Cele acknowledged that the police show poor response times and that corruption is eroding the service, law enforcers also need to commit to an action plan that can be implemented immediately to improve rural safety in South Africa. Agri SA says the Rural Safety Summit that is currently underway in Parys in the Free State, will otherwise have been another waste of time and resources.
In a statement released yesterday, Agri SA says it is invested in the successful conclusion of the summit with the hope that the parties will emerge with a concrete action plan to address the dangers that rural communities face. “These dangers are not limited to extreme events such as violent murders and unrest, but also include the damaging effect of crime and the associated cost for primary agriculture.”
In its presentation during the opening session of the summit, Agri SA highlighted a few key aspects of the strategy that it believes must be the starting point in implementing it. These include:
- The more effective functioning of the priority committee structures.
- An effectively implemented reservist system with a focus on well-resourced rural reservists with the participation of farmers and farmworkers. Agri SA recommended as a departure point two reservists per farmer association.
- More effective criminal investigations, detention of suspects, and opposition of bail by the police.
- Effective crime intelligence and crime analysis, including analysis of organised crime and the establishment of an integrated, central information centre by the police.
- Greater police visibility and the implementation of blue-white light events in all provinces.
- Creation of police task teams and rapid response units in hotspot areas.
“It is critical that the summit agrees on the urgent steps to be taken to kickstart the effective implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy and to capacitate the police serving rural farming areas so they can adequately protect these communities,” says Uys van der Westhuijzen, the chairperson of the Centre of Excellence on Rural Safety at Agri SA.
“This is also crucial if the police are to regain the trust of the rural farming community they serve,” he continues. “We cannot overlook the fact that farmers and farmworkers are targeted in farm attacks as well as during rioting and unrest situations. The fact that the police are inadequately prepared and resourced to assist farming communities in their hour of greatest need is concerning in the extreme.”
‘No new strategy necessary, only action’
Agri SA says it supports the Rural Safety Strategy and is encouraged that the summit has been convened. It adds, however, that it expects the police to use the occasion of the summit to confirm how they will start to effectively implement the strategy. “No new strategies or policies are needed. Agri SA is of the view that the strategy is an appropriate vehicle to deal with the crime issues affecting farming communities provided that it is properly implemented and resourced.”
“Trust in the police will only be rebuilt when the farming community believes that the police are willing and able to help protect them and to conduct professional criminal investigations,” says Van der Westhuijzen.
“To do this, there must be an emphasis on the first two pillars of the strategy: building effective human and physical capacity and capability in rural areas, and improving access to policing, investigative capacity, and service delivery for the farming community.
“Agri SA trusts that rural areas will be prioritised in the placement of the new recruits and reservists, and in the allocation of resources. Without delivery, the extensive engagement over the course of the summit will be of no value.”
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.