“The brutal and senseless farm attacks during the past month have deeply affected our rural communities. During June alone, there have been 27 attacks on farms and smallholdings, which is approximately one every day. During some of these attacks, victims left with no choice have defended themselves, unfortunately resulting in fatalities among alleged perpetrators,” said Tommie Esterhuyse, chairperson of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Rural Safety.

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Agri SA is deeply concerned about the rural crime situation and strongly condemns the attacks on farming and rural communities. Crime has a detrimental impact on agriculture – not only with regard to national interests, but specifically to food production and the role it plays in rural stability and the rural economy.

The country currently finds itself in one of the most difficult economic situations, with the agricultural sector having to contend with an ‘agriculture-unfriendly’ government and policy uncertainty.

This threatens the strategic interest of agriculture and undermines confidence in the sector. Uncertainty and escalating rural crimes are not conducive to creating an environment where agriculture can perform and contribute towards economic development and growth. “In these circumstances, it becomes difficult to calm the emotions of members and farmworkers when they insist on their right to safety. Agri SA cautions the farming community, to act responsibly and to hold the police accountable for performing their constitutional duty to protect all citizens,” said Esterhuyse.

Government assistance now needed more than ever

When the agricultural sector suffers, so does the country. The government must consider the value of agriculture when developing policy and policing models to address rural crime effectively. A well-implemented Rural Safety Strategy and an accompanying police force, which investigates crime effectively and brings suspects to book, are now critically important. The farming community’s primary responsibility is to produce food. They should not have to conduct patrols to protect themselves and their property. This is a core responsibility of the police to effectively protect the country’s citizens. The fact that the Rural Safety Strategy is not fully implemented is one of the contributing factors in this regard. For this reason, a conducive environment should be created wherein agriculture can fulfil its role effectively.

The widespread occurrence of farm attacks cannot be addressed with a single solution. “We need a government that is not hostile to agriculture and demonstrates the political will to make tough decisions to benefit agriculture, rural safety and food security. This includes the will to adapt its value system in such a way that everyone in the country feels safe and where agriculture and job creation can move forward. Since February, Agri SA has been trying to arrange a meeting with the police management to discuss rural safety and looks forward to finalising a date when, among other issues, the implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy can be discussed,” said Esterhuyse.

Contributing towards rural safety

The Agri Securitas Trust Fund receives contributions to help farming communities to protect themselves. With the increase in farm attacks, such contributions are vital. To this end, we call on individuals and the private sector, to support the farming community financially during these difficult times. If you are able to contribute towards the safety of farmers and farmworkers, you can make a contribution to the Agri Securitas Trust Fund at Absa Business Bank, account number: 4055781687, branch code: 632005. – Press release, Agri SA