The Democratic Alliance (DA) has requested a debate in the National Assembly on the “scourge” of farm attacks and murders across rural South Africa, many of which have been “particularly heinous in nature with brutal torture”. These attacks, they say, are a “national emergency” which must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
In a press briefing on Thursday, the DA said this debate is of “national importance” and that it is critical that Parliament uses its platform to highlight the plight of the rural community.
“There has been a significant upsurge in the number of reported incidents of farm attacks since the start of the lockdown,” Dianne Kohler Barnard MP – Chairperson of the DA Rural Safety Workstream – said in a press statement.
She said: “Despite the ANC’s denialist stance, South Africa’s agriculture sector continues to be threatened by this volatile security situation, with the total costs related to agricultural crime in 2019 estimated at R10 billion and a further economic output loss to the South African economy of R20 billion.”
According to the DA, the SA government can no longer deny rural safety.
“We must ask ourselves whether or not these attacks are simply lawlessness – or if they are driven by hatred or another motive,” says Kohler Barnard.
In addition to its request for a debate in Parliament, the DA says it will also action the following measures:
1. Farm Murders as Hate Crimes:
“The DA will, when it is called for, report these attacks as Hate Crimes, including the reporting and charging of those on social media, or any other platform, who glorify the torture and murder.
“Hate crimes are defined based on two factors. The first is that the act is considered a crime under existing South African criminal law. The second is motivated in whole or in part by prejudice or hatred regarding an aspect of the victims’ identity.
“Hate crimes are not simply crimes committed against vulnerable groups, hate crimes are in fact crimes committed against individuals because of prejudice that the perpetrator holds against an entire group of people, but directed at an available victim.”
2. DA will allocate a Watching Brief for farm attacks:
“Dedicated DA Councillors or activists will track investigations and court proceedings related to all farm attack cases and to report back thereafter to farmers, ensuring they never miss a court date, or that the case never stalls, in essence to ensure that the case is driven to completion. This may translate into support lent to Investigating Officers or prosecutors and identifying and correction of institutional blockages in criminal justice system that will allow the increase in convictions of the small group of offenders who perpetrate these farm attacks.”
3. Massive increase in research and statistical information:
“The DA will immediately request a new study on Rural Security to be undertaken, looking for long-term solutions based on global best practice.
“There is presently only limited and outdated research on farm attacks, at both a government and academic level. As such, there is a need for additional research to be commissioned, funded and conducted, at both the aforementioned levels, on the increasing scourge of farm attacks in the country.
“For farm attacks to be effectively addressed the issue needs to be correctly assessed, its contributing factors and underlying root causes identified and understood.
“The unique levels of brutality and premeditation involved in these crimes and the role of farmers in providing food security, rural stability and job creation in rural communities should ensure that the SAPS these statistics in their annual crime release.
“The DA will ask that this be done.”
4. Improved Interaction with the agricultural unions:
“We will work with the Agricultural Unions and do oversight on the farm patrols, assisting them to be organised and formalised.”
5. Increase in support for emerging farmers:
“The potential of agriculture as contributing to the economy has been vastly underestimated in South Africa, and as the only way to kill poverty is to create wealth, the DA will continue to drive land ownership, and the financial support of emerging farmers.”
6. Improved relationship with the SAPS:
The DA “will work for an improved SAPS/farmer relationship, in terms of firearm licences, firearm training, farm patrols, and perpetrator apprehension, in all areas to decrease the trust deficit currently experienced.
“The DA will ask the SAPS to run regular outreach Community Awareness and Education days in the at-risk areas, focusing on security and safety issues.”
7. Reintroduction of Specialised Units:
The DA “will again push for the establishment of fully outfitted Specialised Units dedicated to protecting our rural communities, and apprehending any attacker/s who get onto a farm or smallholding to attack and steal.”
8. Increase in Investigative Capacity at SAPS:
“The DA will ask that the investigative capacity at rural SAPS stations be increased, to ensure that farm attackers are apprehended. The DA will ask for increased police presence, and the utilization of every available technology when tracking perpetrators. If K9 units are not available, drones should be.”
9. Farm murders to be recategorised as Priority Crimes:
“Equally the DA will ask that the SAPS recategorise rural attacks as priority crimes.
“These attacks have many similarities to house robbery, business robbery and car hijacking which are treated as priority crimes and as a result, SAPS has set up specialist task teams that specialise in investigating and resolving the said crimes. Thus, farm attacks, (which share similarities with the crimes of house robbery, business robbery and carjacking,) should also be regarded as priority crimes.
“Like the trio crimes, farm attacks and farm murders should be treated as a separate crime category; be regarded as a priority crime; and need a particular solution.
“Certainly, the link between cross-border crime syndicates and farm attacks, must be investigated.
“There should be a dedicated strategy for farm attacks and farm murders that target the criminal groups responsible – similar to the way in which the trio crimes are managed. This strategy should be used to protect farming communities (all people on farm and smallholdings) and track down the perpetrators.”
10. Fight the amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution:
“Expropriation Without Compensation is every property-owner’s worst nightmare, and this is on top of land claims stalling farm development year after year. We will continue to fight EWC at every turn. The DA has always and will always oppose any abrogation of existing private property rights. Economic growth and development are not possible without property rights, and expropriation without compensation will only serve to bring that to a grinding halt.”
11. Review of land occupation regulations
The DA says it supports “legal evictions, but will ask for a review of regulations, as it is extremely difficult to remove threatening workers. For example, 16 female workers left one farm because one man was harassing them, but it took two years to have him legally evicted. This process must be reviewed. Equally so, illegal land invasions and the regulations which only give 24 hours to evict the invaders, must be reviewed.”
12. Tax Relief Measures for farmers:
The DA says it will ask for tax relief for those in rural areas for farmers who pay Private Security Companies, as well as subsidies for farm patrols, farm watches and companies providing security in farming and rural communities.
13. Increase in Crime Intelligence capacity in rural areas:
The DA says it will call for a greater Crime Intelligence capacity for rural areas, so that farm attacks are prevented, rather than having to call the police in after a murder has been committed. “As such we will ask for additional Crime Intelligence capacity specifically in the hot spot areas.”
14. Increased security of the South African border:
“The DA will continue to stress the need for border control, certainly more than the current ‘washing line’, and increased Defence Force presence with a mandate to stop illegal border crossings. We will ask that SANDF reservists could be used to patrol the hotspot borders.
“Home Affairs needs to be strengthened to ensure the fingerprints of every visitor are on record.”
15. Joint Ministerial Summit on Rural Safety:
Finally, the DA says it will call for a joint Police, Army, Security and Agriculture Portfolio Summit to work through the myriad rural security threats, find short- and medium-term solutions and ensure their implementation. “Obviously, farm workers must also be a part of these discussions, as they are at equal risk,” the DA statement said.