Two farm attacks took place in the Free State this past weekend, one at Kroonstad and one at Clocolan. In a third incident a couple was unharmed after they activated the local safety structure after finding a suspect at their home.
According to the VKB/FSA Safety Desk two workers from the farm Delportsrus close to Kroonstad were attacked and assaulted by 10 armed robbers on Saturday, 11 March 2017. The robbers arrived on the farm with a bakkie and trailer, and they held up the workers while they broke into the farm house and storage facilities. A total of 14 solar panels and batteries as well as other workshop equipment was stolen. The damage and loss is about R200 000.
In a second incident Nikki Haddad was attacked by two men on the farm Howie in the Clocolan district on Sunday afternoon, 12 March 2017, between 14:00 and 15:00. The suspects hid behind his garage and attacked him when he arrived at his house from town. He was shot in his one leg as well as in his left armpit, after which he was robbed. The suspects did not break into the house or any other buildings at the homestead.
Deon Roux, safety coordinator of the Clocolan Farmer’s Association, says the local safety structure was activated as soon as Haddad raised the alarm. Farmers were first on the scene to assist Haddad, while the Police’s K9 unit was dispatched to assist in the search for the suspects. A local safety company’s drone was also used to search the fields in the area. The search for the suspects is still on. Haddad is in a stable condition in a hospital in Bethlehem.
Incident at Reitz
In a third incident Jasper Fouché and his wife from the farm Delsville in the Reitz district raised the alarm when they arrived home from church on Sunday, 12 March 2017, and saw that all was not well at their house. A man was seen jumping over the homestead’s fence and running away when they stopped at the gate. The farm watch structure was activated, and they searched the house with the couple to ensure that it was safe. The couple’s two dogs were killed. No stolen items could be identified. The Police’s K9 unit also searched this area, as the maize field is very dense.
All are targets
The statistics kept by the VKB/FSA Safety Desk’s statistics of crime on farms in the Free State indicates an increase, as well as that all rural community members are possible targets of crimes which could lead to farm attacks. In four of the 12 farm attacks commercial farmers were attacked, and in one incident an upcoming farmer was attacked. The seven other incidents were on workers or farm dwellers.
Henk Vermeulen, chief operating officer of Free State Agriculture (FSA), says the organisation is very grateful that no lives have been lost. “The safety of farmers and rural communities is our first priority, and one attack is one to many. We want to again encourage farmers to join their local safety structures and to be as vigilant as possible, reporting any suspicious incident, circumstances, persons or vehicles.”
Tommie Esterhuyse, chairperson of FSA’s Rural Safety Committee, says the organisation meets with other organisations and role players on a weekly basis to discuss safety. “Safety as an issue and the safety of people have to remain the main focuses of all our actions, and we will cooperate with all role players within the framework of the Rural Safety Plan (RSP) to try and keep our farming communities safe. While the incidents took place on Sunday, farmers and Police were practising to react on farm attacks in other areas of the province. This is one of the important aspects that is driven so that all role players’ reaction can be vigilant during an emergency. According to the RSP’s stipulations two farm attack practice sessions have to take place in each district every year.”
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