The number of farm attacks in the Eastern Cape have risen three-fold over the past four years, highlighting the brutal assault that continues to take place on Eastern Cape farmers.
These attacks are a warning flag of the increasing violent crime in rural communities in the Eastern Cape, and once again highlights the urgent need for a Rural Safety Summit that can address the issue.
The latest statistics, provided by MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe in response to parlimentary questions, show that there were 74 farm attacks in the province for the 2019/2020 financial year, up sharply from the 26 attacks in 2016/17. In 2017/18 there were 34 attacks reported and in 2018/19 there were 48.
Of these 74 farm attacks that took place, Addo was the hot spot with 14 farm attacks occurring within the area.
The official crime statistics released last month showed the Eastern Cape, along with the Free State, had the highest number of farm murders in the country, with 12 people murdered on farms in both provinces.
Stock theft in the province has also soared during the recent lockdown with 5,636 stock stolen with an estimated value of R17,9 million stolen in the three months between May and July this year. The province has eight out of the top ten stations for stock theft in the country.
It is not just the Eastern Cape farmers, whether commercial or emerging, that are under siege. Rural villages are also baring the brunt of violent crime. Since January 2020 11 people have been killed in the Mdeni village in the Ngcobo area.
Last year it was reported that in Kwamlaza village, in the Port St. Johns municipality, that villagers fled their homes after nine people, eight of them women had been hacked to death, or raped and then killed, over a five year period, with no successful prosecutions.
Rural police are severely under-resourced. The MEC recently revealed that just 20 of the 162 rural stations have the right number of manpower.
The Democratic Alliance believes that some of the steps that can be taken to improve rural security are:
- The introduction of specialized units dedicated to protecting rural communities;
- Increase the research and statistical information on these crimes and make it available on an electronic dashboard;
- Increase the investigative capacity of SAPS. This means the utilization of every available technology, such as drones, when tracking perpetrators;
- The reclassification of farm attacks as priority crimes, which would result in an increase of resources made available to deal with them;
- There should also be tax relief measures for those in rural areas, such as farmers, who have to pay for private security companies, as well as subsidies for farm patrollers, farm watchers, and companies providing security in rural communities;
- We also need to increase the crime intelligence capacity for rural areas, and
- Border security needs to be improved upon.
I am now challenging the MEC to follow through on her words, in response to my question, and to arrange a virtual Rural Safety summit in the province as a matter of urgency, where advice and assistance can be given from a wide range of experts.
All stakeholders need to work together to find innovative solutions to address the scourge of crime that is sweeping through our rural communities.
An attack on the farming community is an attack on the province’s food security and jobs. Over and above this it is an attack on the psychological well-being of all rural communities who are forced to live in fear.