Rural safety plan almost done - ministry
Johannesburg - A revised rural safety plan that gives priority to rural areas and rural development is nearly finalised, the police ministry said on Tuesday.
One of the key aspects was to improve service delivery at police stations, spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said in a statement.
"We want to increase and improve police visibility in rural areas and the response times of police; improve and enhance relationships between the police, farming community, stakeholders and extended rural communities."
Also on Tuesday, the commercial farmers' union TAU SA said farm attacks should be made a priority crime.
TAU SA assistant general manager Chris van Zyl said there was not only a traumatic side to farm attacks, but they also threatened food security.
"It is estimated that each farmer feeds at least 1 600 people, probably more," he told a meeting organised by the union in Pretoria to discuss ways to curb farm murders.
Separate crime category
"The loss of every farmer has the potential of reducing the food production capacity in this country, which has a direct bearing on the well-being of the citizens."
Van Zyl said TAU SA intended to consolidate the input received at its meeting into a memorandum to hand to the police ministry, the police and the national police commissioner.
"I think that farm attacks should be classified as a separate category of crime.... Statistics need to be kept. We need well-trained police officials and to get down to what the real motive behind this is."
TAU SA deputy president Henry Geldenhuys said Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa had been scheduled to address the meeting, but had failed to show up.
"Farm attacks can't continue at the current rate... Is this the concern that the police and ministry put to the matter? This is a source of great concern for us."
However, Mnisi said the ministry had not confirmed its attendance at the meeting, because it had not been invited.
"We therefore find it [an] opportunistic and attention-seeking exercise, using the minister’s name to get the media to their meeting. We condemn such cheap practices which do not help the cause of rural safety," Mnisi said.
"Fact is, when other stakeholders invited us we engage and have constructive meetings; they did not invite us via the media."
Geldenhuys said political will was essential.
"Farm attacks should be made a priority. It should be a priority to protect the 35 000 farmers in South Africa. We also do not know the extent of the problem and we need to know."
Mnisi said rural development had been placed high on the agenda, and the ministry viewed the South African rural community's safety as a priority.
"This priority therefore needs to find concrete expression in our policing strategies and we need to ensure that our programmes speak adequately to this important issue."
He said the ministry was aware that crime syndicates also operated in rural areas.
Van Zyl said: "We need to confirm whether rural safety is really treated down at grassroot levels as a priority, because we don't get that impression."
In January, six farmers were killed in different parts of the country.