Advocacy group Agri SA has urged the government to provide greater protection to the farming community in order to ensure operations are not disrupted during the festive season.
ADVOCACY group Agri SA has called on the police minister to place at the top of his list of priorities the safety of the farming community when implementing the festive season safety plan.
Agri SA decried the high crime levels, especially farm attacks, which it said had recently flared up again. According to the advocacy group, such attacks in the farming community have had a devastating impact on various farming operations.
The chairperson of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Rural Safety, Uys van der Westhuijzen, welcomed the national police commissioner’s announcement that the Rural Safety Strategy would be applied during this time to deal with stock theft and attacks on the farming community.
He added that the police’s focus on visible policing and crime prevention operations during the festive period could contribute towards crime reduction.
“In order to send a clear message to criminals that crime would not be tolerated in these communities, it is important that the operation also be conducted visibly in rural areas,” said Van der Westhuijzen.
He noted that farmers suffer enormous losses due to an increase in product and input theft and looting on farms.
In addition to this, high-risk crimes such as illegal hunting with dogs, especially in organised groups, posed a further threat to the safety of the farming community.
“These criminals will not hesitate to use violence if confronted. This also poses a threat to wildlife that are poached in this manner and exposed to serious trauma,” he said.
According to the advocacy group, police need to follow a proactive approach in implementing national instructions to prevent trespassing and land invasions, which have the potential to create further conflict if not dealt with promptly by the police.
“The police must take the above seriously and do their legal duty instead of standing by passively without considering the victim’s right to effective policing,” Van der Westhuijzen stressed.
He called on the farming community not to lower their guard during the festive season, but rather to be actively involved in their organised agriculture and security structures.
He also stressed the importance of continuing to liaise with the local police and to report all crime and suspicious behaviour immediately.
Agri SA applauded the farmers who contributed towards curbing rural crime within their communities and who serve in various security structures in the interest of the organisation and their fellow farmers.