Rural safety plan enhanced following rise of farm attacks - WC police commissioner

Following a recent spike in farm attacks in the Western Cape, provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula says the police in the province have had to relook their rural safety plan.

This comes on the back of two farm attacks in the Cape Winelands over the past couple of weeks that claimed the lives of Stellenbosch wine farmer Stefan Smit on June 2 and Tool Wessels last month.

Four people were believed to have entered Smit's home and killed him while he was with friends and family, News24 previously reported.

Wessels was killed on his farm in Bonnievale. His wife, 51-year-old Liezel, was stabbed and had boiling water repeatedly poured on her.

Addressing the media at a ministerial stakeholder engagement on Tuesday, Jula confirmed that leads were being followed by the police in an effort to apprehend the suspects involved in the murders.

Jula also revealed that to date, his office had noted 12 reported farm attacks in the Western Cape since the beginning of June.

"We [the police] do have a rural safety plan in place," he said when asked about future preventative measures.

Focus on reaction capabilities 

However, he mentioned that with the increase in farm attacks, the plan needed a relook.

"When we saw that farm murders were on the rise, we had a relook at our plan and enhanced our reaction capabilities particularly in the Cape Winelands, and I can confirm that we are following up on leads relating to farm murders."

Speaking at the same media briefing, Police Minister Bheki Cele said he would be meeting with Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz to discuss how best to deal with crime in the Western Cape on a broader scale as well as how best to deal with farm murders.

He said he expected the meeting to happen sometime after the State of the Nation Address, which is scheduled to take place next Thursday.

Rural safety plan commitment

Fritz previously expressed his concern about the number of farm attacks in the province, saying they posed a threat to the province's economy as well as the livelihood of farmworkers and farmers.

Last week, the Western Cape government committed to a rural safety plan which would:

- Invite representatives from organised agriculture and labour as well as the police to join the rural safety technical work stream;

- Update the provincial rural safety plan (last reviewed eight years ago); 

- Institute watching briefs for cases impacting rural safety to monitor the legal processes around specific cases after an arrest has been made;

 - Refer matters to the police ombudsman; 

- Engage with district municipalities regarding their safety plans with a view to funding projects that focus on innovation, partnerships and technology.

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