The lockdown measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic make excessive demands on security forces and yet the government has not availed itself of the support offered by organised agriculture in terms of the Rural Safety Strategy due to its apparent inability to reach a positive decision regarding requests for assistance. While the government drags its feet, farmers are suffering enormous losses as a result of an increase in livestock and produce theft and illegal slaughtering and looting of farms, said TLU SA and Agri SA.
“Farmers are fed up with the government’s total disregard for farmers and their needs,” said Tommie Esterhuyse, chair of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Rural Safety. “It is now time for the government to do its part; it is no longer business as usual,” said Henry Geldenhuys, Deputy President, and chair of TLU SA’s Safety Committee.
Requests addressed to the ministries of Police, Agriculture and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs as early as the first week of the lockdown to include farm watches as an essential service were ignored despite the fact that these requests were followed up both telephonically and in writing. While the government drags its feet, the farming community is left out in the cold. It is interesting that the government approaches the farming community when it needs help with the distribution of fresh produce to needy communities, with producers and farm workers heeding the request and making generous contributions in this regard, yet the government ignores organised agriculture’s proposed amendments to the lockdown regulations in order to protect food production.
Organised agriculture, via its farm watch system, has since the late 1990’s been part of rural safety and has experienced good cooperation from the police in terms of visible policing and implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy. Therefore, the recent public utterances by the Minister of Police make no sense. The minister is still not prepared to liaise with TLU SA and Agri SA to find an acceptable solution to combat crime in rural areas during the lockdown period.
The increasing inability of state departments such as the police and public works to respond to organised agriculture’s requests in the past is shocking.
When people no longer have money to buy food, they will increasingly resort to theft, which can potentially give rise to serious conflict because farming communities will protect their own property, while the police are focusing on implementing the regulations in towns, cities and along the main routes. The inability of the police to implement effective policing and maintain law and order in rural areas has resulted in producers having to incur enormous costs to introduce safety measures in order to protect food production.
Reports have been received from the respective provinces to the effect that the police are no longer involved in proactive policing. Incidents that are reported are not investigated and complainants in the agricultural sector must arrest suspects and bring them to the police otherwise the police cannot open a case. The current situation in rural areas is totally unacceptable.
The farming community is also experiencing enormous frustration with the manner in which the police at local level interpret the regulations. Effective command and control measures, backed by good communication, are needed now more than ever before.
TLU SA and Agri SA thanked their members for continuing to produce food under very difficult circumstances to ensure that food is always available. Both these organisations also thanked the many police officers who in difficult times go the extra mile to assist the community and continue to perform their duties well.
It is largely contributed to the farming community that there is still stability in the country because agriculture has been able to produce enough food for the nation, even during the lockdown period. For this reason, it is also in the national interest to safeguard food production against criminality in order to maintain food security. TLU SA and Agri SA have provided the government with various workable proposals in this regard. It is now time for the government to take note of the seriousness of the crime situation in rural areas and to join forces with organised agriculture.
Read the original article in Afrikaans on TLU SA
South Africa Today – South Africa News