“We don’t need more or any new plans to curb rural crime, just implement the Rural Safety Strategy that was launched in 2019,” said Uys van der Westhuijzen, the chair of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence on Rural Safety.
This was Agri SA’s message to a workshop of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on rural and urban safety recently. In its presentation, Agri SA provided an overview of the most important aspects of the strategy to combat rural crime more effectively.
Challenges that can lead to conflicts, such as trespassing, land invasions, and unlawful protests, were highlighted. The criminal justice system is one of the most important elements in the battle to combat rural crime. Various aspects thereof are currently ineffective. The shortcomings have been identified and proposals were made to address them.
Agri SA has lodged complaints the previous year with the Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), as well as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), in relation to hate speech by members of the EFF aimed at the farming community during the court proceedings in Senekal on the 16th of October 2020. During a meeting with the SAHRC, Agri SA was informed that they had received various complaints in this regard, which were presently under investigation.
It is regrettable, however, that despite several inquiries, the IEC has not yet responded to Agri SA’s written complaints. Agri SA will continue to follow up these complaints with the IEC. 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. During the meeting with the SAHRC, the commission was reminded of the critical role that agriculture plays in food production for the nation, with a warning that should the country lose its capacity to produce food, the result could be starvation, which holds a risk for national stability.
“Agri SA is also of the opinion that the Rural Safety Strategy could prevent most rural crime, including farm attacks and murders, if it is implemented fully and the necessary resources are made available,” said Van der Westhuijzen.
“We are concerned, however, that the most important elements of the strategy, which should be in place by the end of March 2021, will not be implemented. For this reason, we call on the police management to attend urgently to the implementation of these elements. Agri SA also expressed its support for the strategy and assured the police of its cooperation in ensuring more effective implementation of the strategy.
”The inputs that other organized agriculture organizations, as well as organizations with an interest in rural areas, provided at the workshop will now be consolidated into a report for consideration by the IMC. The IMC will then make proposals to the government, also regarding further handling of its proposals to combat rural crime more effectively”, Van der Westhuijzen said that Agri SA appreciates minister Thoko Didiza’s condemnation of the recent farm attack in Crowder near Umkhomazi in KwaZulu-Natal.
“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.”