BECAUSE Eastern Cape police did not have a rural safety unit, rural residents, including farmers, paid for the omission with their lives, according to the DA.

Bobby Stevenson, a Democratic Alliance (DA) leader in the province, said police were failing in their mandate to protect rural communities.

However, the provincial department of safety and liaison yesterday said there was no need for a rural safety unit since rural safety measures were already in place.

“We don’t need a rural safety unit; what we need is public participation when it comes to combating crime,” Lwandile Sicwetsha of the provincial department of safety and liaison said.

Stevenson was referring to recent deadly attacks on Eastern Cape farmers which he said could have been prevented had a proper rural safety unit been in place. The four recent farm attacks include:

Jansenville farmer Owen Charles was brutally murdered just over two weeks ago;

Hercules Phil Jordaan was murdered at his home in Mount Fletcher in July;

‘Boy’ Jordaan was shot in a mielie field on his farm between Barkly East and Maclear in July; and

Former ANC MP David Dlali was murdered on his farm in Cedarville, Matatiele, in June.

This week alone two separate farms in the Brakfontein area were robbed and one occupant was injured.

“There is no proper police focus in rural communities and as a result residents pay dearly for this,” Stevenson said yesterday.

He said farmers worried more about crime than what they did best – farming.

“These crimes impact on our small towns. People do not want to work or live on farms for fear of being attacked,” he said, adding that the rural economy was in jeopardy.

“In a case of stock theft, a farmer must report a case to the police station and then the docket is transferred to the stock theft unit and it all takes time,” Stevenson said, adding that by the time the docket reached the final unit the suspects were long gone.

He said if a rural safety unit were implemented it could drastically reduce rural crime because police would respond urgently and might even be able to prevent crime.

Sicwetsha said farm-related attacks would stop only when the public reported the perpetrators to police. “The criminals who attack farmers at night live in our society therefore they can be uprooted once members of the public assist police with identifying them,” he said, adding that structures such as community policing forums and village committees were already functional.

Provincial police spokeswoman LieutenantSibongile Soci said police already used rural safety strategies like farm patrols and sector policing.