While greater policing may protect a few more farms, it will not solve the underlying issue of food security which is contributing to the spike in crimes on farms, says the African Centre for Food Security.
There has been a recent spike in farm attacks across the country.
Professor Steven Worth, the centre’s director and an associate professor for Extension and Rural Resource Management at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said increased policing would not solve the chronic vulnerability to food insecurity experienced by many.
He said despair was a powerful motivator and until that was addressed, no amount of policing would bring about sustainable security for farmers or anyone else.
Worth said there was no doubt that the Covid-19 regulations were a contributing factor and while crime could not be condoned, it was important to look at the whole picture.
“The impact of the pandemic has exacerbated an existing sense of frustration particularly on the part of the poor who were food insecure before the lockdown and are more food insecure as a result of the lockdown,” Worth said.
He said in addition to criminals taking advantage of the increased vulnerability of farmers brought on by lockdown measures, loss of income motivated the most vulnerable to commit crimes.
The KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) said there had been increased incidents of crime include poaching, stock theft, crop theft, theft of farming equipment, arson and crimes against individuals.
Kwanalu chief executive Sandy La Marque said shortcomings and challenges had been identified with the National Rural Safety Strategy, following an increase in crime affecting farmers and surrounding communities in the province.
“We are concerned with the recent spike in incidents in rural areas and the severe negative effects, and the impact this increase is having on farmers and those living in rural communities,” she said.
La Marque said while the rural safety strategy was a sound platform focusing on rural safety and security matters, it needed to be constantly reviewed and refined.
She said the strategy lacked rural patrols by the police and there was a shortage of manpower as well as vehicles.
“This together with the noted increase in the crimes related to socio-economic circumstances as well as an increase in service delivery protests is placing pressure on the strategy,” said La Marque.
She said they were fortunate to have a good working relationship with the police and she encouraged rural communities to continually seek ways to improve their security.
The Police Ministry said they would look into the concerns raised about the rural safety strategy.
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard, who heads the party’s rural safety work stream, said in the latest incident a man was badly assaulted by two attackers with a sharpened iron rod in the Free State at the weekend.
Kohler Barnard said the DA had requested a debate in the National Assembly on farm attacks and murders across the country.
“These attacks have been particularly heinous in nature with brutal torture being commonplace in rural attacks.”
Kohler Barnard said the agriculture sector continues to be threatened by this volatile security situation, with the total costs related to agricultural crime last year estimated at R10billion.
She said a further R20bn of the country’s economic output had also been lost.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development did not respond to a request for comment.
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