Superguards protect farms

2012-11-18 18:35

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Johannesburg - Farmers in the Ceres area last week hired private security companies to guard equipment and provide back-up for a police force stretched dangerously thin by explosive protests across the Western Cape.

But these weren’t run-of-the-mill security guards - they were paramilitary operatives specially trained in handling strike action.

Farmers were reluctant to name the companies they had hired, or had been asked by the companies themselves not to mention their names.

Some farmers told City Press they had simply been told security had been provided, but had no further details.

The guard outside the premises of Dutoit Agri in Ceres, the largest family-owned farming group in South Africa, had the logo of Vetus Schola protection services on his pullover.

Of military bearing and with a foreign accent that suggested he may be from the DRC, it did not look as if the the stern guard’s services came cheap.

There’s a heading on Vetus Schola’s website that reads: “High Risk Operations - Strike Handling.”

Here the company states that, within 48 hours, it can assemble a team of “former law enforcement personnel, as well as military and security agents to provide executive security, site surveillance and non-striking employee protection”.

Gys du Toit, the managing director of Dutoit Agri, said: “Lots of private security has been brought in.”

SANDF


Du Toit said he had personally spoken to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and asked for the SA National Defence Force to be brought in to help police during the volatile strikes.

About 16 farming areas across the Western Cape flared up after strikes began in De Doorns last Monday.

But President Jacob Zuma had not authorised the measure, Du Toit said, and so farmers had no other choice.

According to Du Toit, the police simply could not cope with the level of violence and vandalism that was happening in the Ceres area.

Robert Graaff, of Graaff Fruit, said he had also hired private security on Monday.

He said the high cost of hiring security, added to the losses incurred by damages and the inability to harvest, was an added burden on farmers who were now facing a desperate season.



Read more on:    helen zille  |  jacob zuma  |  cape town  |  protests  |  farmworker protests
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