The increase in farm attacks over the past few weeks has been so severe that an urgent parliamentary debate is needed, says acting DA leader John Steenhuisen.
He said at a DA media conference on Thursday afternoon that the situation was so serious that the party’s National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise had asked for such a debate.
This is in the national interest because these attacks threaten food security in the country.
“We want to know what the government is going to do about the problem,” Steenhuisen said.
There must be a political will to do something about the situation. It is currently missing.
Each commercial farmer supplies an average of 1,500 people.
At the conference, the DA announced its plans for how it believes rural security could be improved.
DA spokesman Andrew Whitfield said that before the trust between rural communities and the police was not restored, farm attacks would remain a serious problem.
“It is important that there is a constructive relationship between rural communities and the police to combat crime.
“Unfortunately, the reality is that no one has contributed more than Police Minister Bheki Cele to undermining rural communities’ confidence in the police,” says Whitfield.
“This confidence must be rebuilt.”
The DA will strive to improve the relationship between the police and the farmers on matters such as firearm licenses, firearms training, farm patrols and the detention of offenders.
Dianne Kohler-Barnard, the DA’s spokesperson on state security, says not only has there been an alarming increase in farm attacks in recent times, but the attacks are also particularly gruesome. Torture is common and the country’s farmers live in fear.
She says it’s important for police to make more money available to improve crime intelligence in rural areas.
Border patrols in problem areas should be increased.
“Wherever the situation is discussed, it is important for the farm workers to be part of these discussions,” Kohler-Barnard said.
Because of what happened when farm guards were not allowed to patrol at the onset of the national state of confinement, the farm guards lost their confidence in the police.
Agricultural organizations say there was a visible increase in crime on farms during this period.
Annette Steyn, the party’s spokesperson on agriculture, said the government needed to make money available for proper research on the issue.
She says court cases on farm attacks take an average of seven to ten years to complete.
The DA’s proposals on rural security are:
• Farm attacks – and the incitement of them on social media – must be declared a hate crime;
• Assigned DA councilors will monitor investigations in the future and monitor the subsequent legal process following farm attacks to make sure they are finalized. Victims will be kept informed throughout the process;
• More research and statistical information should be introduced;
• Interaction between agricultural organizations must improve;
• Emerging farmers need better support. These include financial support and the title deeds of the land on which they farm;
• The DA will help improve relations between the police and the farmers;
• Specialist police units must be reinstated;
• The police’s investigative capacity in rural areas needs to be improved;
• Farm murders must be declared a priority crime;
• The amendment of Article 25 of the Constitution that would allow expropriation without compensation must be fought;
• There must be a review of the land tenure regulations;
• There must be tax breaks for farmers who use security companies. Among other things, there must also be subsidies for farm guards and companies that do security in rural areas.
• The ability of police crime intelligence to be improved;
• Improving security at national borders; and
• All relevant parliamentary portfolio committees such as the police, the military, state security and agriculture must hold a rural security summit.