Agri SA urges ongoing vigilance over farm attacks, despite lower stats

Agri SA is concerned about the number of farm murders that was announced by the South African Police Service (SAPS) yesterday.

Although the stated figure of 47 is a decrease from the 62 farm murders in the previous financial year, it remains enormous and amounts to almost four murders a month, says the agricultural federation, adding that the deceased were part of close communities and their murders are a tragic loss.

“Attacks on the farming community, and the brutality of these attacks, are unacceptable and have assumed alarming proportions,” said Tommie Esterhuyse, chairperson of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Rural Safety.

“Everything possible must be done to protect these communities, who are responsible for food security in South Africa.”

Although the farm murder rate was among the lowest recorded in the past few years, he added, this did not mean that the agricultural sector should reduce its vigilance.

While the trend looked promising, he said, the reality remained that 47 murders were still 47 too many.

"There have been farm attacks and murders for decades. Drastic action, supported by the necessary political will, is needed to prevent this."

Agri SA applauded the farming communities who had upgraded their security structures and local initiatives, despite the high cost associated with doing so.

“Farmers have to rely on private security companies because of a lack of support from local police stations. Partnerships with the private sector have borne fruit and contributed to the success of crime-fighting efforts.”

According to the SAPS statistics, stock theft has increased. An Agri SA survey showed that property-related crimes – such as stock theft and the theft of farm infrastructure and implements – have the biggest effect on agriculture, with losses amounting to billions of rands.

Stock theft is increasingly the target of organised crime and the police should investigate it as such, read the survey: “The farming community is increasingly reluctant to report incidents of property-related crime because they no longer have confidence in the criminal justice system to ensure successful prosecution of criminals.

“In Harrismith and Bethlehem alone, more than 2 700 head of cattle have been stolen in the past 15 months and more than 300 cases have been reported. But only one arrest has been made.”

Agri SA, however, acknowledged the SAPS for including farm attacks in the crime statistics, saying it indicated a change in attitude on the part of the police, showing that they recognised the seriousness of this matter.

Agri SA also welcomed the new revised rural safety strategy that will be released shortly.

“Agri SA was actively involved in the drafting of this revised strategy and hopes that it will lend further momentum to farm security and the protection of the agricultural sector,” said the organisation.

The Agri Securitas Trust Fund has, since its inception in 1999, assisted in safeguarding thousands of farmers and farm workers. Agri SA and the Trust Fund will continue to strive for the safety of every farmer, farm worker and farming community.

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