Over the past decade, more than 500 farmers have stopped farming on the Lesotho border due to crime, says Francois Wilken, president of Free State Agriculture (FSA).
Wilken expressed dismay at the serious violent crimes, including farm attacks, which are increasing in agricultural communities along the Lesotho border.
He says there were three farm attacks in the Commission Gate, Zastron and Boesmanskop areas within 12 days, respectively.
He says in all cases the elderly were attacked and firearms, money and cell phones were stolen. Farm workers are also not spared in the cross-border attacks and two attacks on farm workers were reported in the Hobhouse area during the containment period.
Wilken says these attacks contribute to more and more farmers leaving their farms. This movement away from the border causes the border buffer to move deeper into the interior, says Wilken.
He says political instability, the fact that Lesotho citizens cannot return to their workplaces in South Africa, as well as food shortages, appear to be major drivers of cross-border crimes.
“It is worrying that firearms in particular are being continuously robbed in farm attacks, possibly indicating greater internal conflict and instability in Lesotho,” says Wilken.
Daleen van der Hoeven, who is in her 80s, was seriously injured in a farm attack in the Boesmanskop area in the morning of July 3.
Attackers kidnapped her in her own vehicle to the border and left it there. She got help from Lesotho citizens she knew.
Wilken says border police do not have enough vehicles and the vehicles of police officers charged with rural security are used elsewhere.
He says this has seriously affected police service delivery in rural areas.
Tommy Esterhuyse, vice president of VL, says that Agri SA has a meeting with Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa requested.
This request was repeated on 21 January 2020, but no feedback was received. The government still fails to give preference to the border situation, he says.