Following deliberations with Agri SA the South African National Defence Force has confirmed that it would deploy soldiers to support distressed farming communities plagued by high levels of crime.
In a joint statement earlier this evening the SANDF and Agri SA say they will explore further areas of cooperation, including the establishment of “a mutually beneficial relationship and, more specifically, to explore integrated rural economic development and rural security initiatives.”
SANDF chief general Solly Shoke says, “The defence force should be a role player in assisting communities in distress and farming communities. The SANDF should be a bridge builder.”
He adds that he was aware of the security and safety threat faced by farming communities along the international borders and that cross-border crime should be dealt with decisively to address this threat.
Mzansi Home Guard ability to be finalised
Agri SA president Pierre Vercueil says the organisation wants to work with the SANDF to enhance the contribution of agriculture to food security and to address poverty in rural areas.
“The safety of our farming communities along the South African borders is important to Agri SA. For this reason, Agri SA and the SANDF should work together to help improve rural safety and security,” says Vercueil.
The SANDF acknowledges agriculture “an appropriate vehicle to contribute towards economic growth. Therefore, it is important to deal effectively with the crime and other community problems along the borders and in rural areas. In this regard, the defence force informed Agri SA that it was working on finalising the Mzantsi Home Guard ability.”
According to Agri SA the Home Guard function will assist with “an organised and co-ordinated blanket coverage” of the country’s rural areas within the borders of the country. This will allow the SANDF to become even more pro-active in its approach to operations. Home Guard members will receive basic military training, including additional training such as information gathering, dealing with disasters, providing support for communities in distress (water purification, as an example), and will play a vital role in rural safety and security.
Agri SA welcomes the home guard function as it can improve rural safety, security and the further implementation of the national rural safety strategy.
Furthermore, the C SANDF project KOBA-TLALA, which means “chasing away hunger”, was also discussed at Agri SA’s meeting with the SANDF. The minister of defence and military veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, approved a concept whereby the SANDF will use its footprint in rural and semi-rural areas to create viable and sustainable communities.
Agri SA say they learnt from the SANDF’s presentations that KOBA-TLALA was Shoke’s flagship project. In this project the SANDF will not necessarily structure for its contribution to the developmental agenda, but will use its inherent collateral utility and assist in the development of new farmers to eradicate poverty with the support of commercial farmers.
“The defence force should be a role player in assisting communities in distress and farming communities.”
The intent is to assist with the facilitation of a process whereby commercial farmers, small-scale and up-and-coming farmers are able to join hands and from which the SANDF is able to procure agricultural and other products, goods and services.
In this regard, the C SANDF project KOBA-TLALA has taken further steps by cooperating with Agri SA to assist in developing new farmers and eradicating poverty, with the support of commercial farmers. Agri SA says it remains committed to working with the SANDF to help roll out the project and the utilisation of the Mzantsi Home Guard System to help improve rural safety and security.
Shoke requested follow-up meetings with Agri SA to discuss the further implementation of project KOBA-TLALA and also to develop further local joint initiatives, including improvement of the crime situation in the border areas. The SANDF will also engage other role players in the agricultural value chain to discuss their role in the implementation of the project.