Police Minister Bheki Cele held a second security imbizo with farmers in the Normandien area on Monday, as a young man appeared in court 50 kilometres away in Newcastle charged with the murder on their farm of Glen and Vida Rafferty.
The Rafferty couple were gunned down in front of their home last month and the murder has sparked great fear in the farming community.
Siyabonga Macu (29) appeared briefly at the Newcastle Magistrate’s Court for the murders.
The case was adjourned to September 28 for a bail hearing. The accused was not asked to plead and police said more arrests are expected to be made, the Newcastle Express reported. Cele said there are four more suspects.
Only a few farmers were at court as most of them were in Normandien to meet with Cele for a second time at an imbizo where he assured them that rural security was a policing priority.
Cele met with community, policing and farming structures who raised their concerns around safety in the area.
The minister urged the police to work on and follow up on all cases opened at the local police station without favour or racial bias.
Racial tension was evident at the imbizo as one community member said that there was a need for white people and white farmers to view black people as equals and to teach their children to do the same and that they should respect black people.
Emotions ran high among farmers and farm workers and farm dwellers, with one of the community members storming off in anger.
News 24 reported that, in response to a parliamentary question, Cele had said that farm attacks and murders would not be classified specifically as a priority crime, because they already fall into the most serious category of crimes, which include incidents classified as aggravated robbery on a farm or dwelling. Cele said farm attacks are often associated with violence against victims, which ranges from common assault, attempted murder and rape.
In response to DA MP Andrew Whitfield’s written parliamentary question, Cele said police report on 17 different crimes as classified by communities and four categories of crimes that are dependent on police action for detection, in their annual crime statistics.
“The most serious of these crimes are grouped into the category referred to as contact crimes and include murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, common assault and aggravated robbery.
“The crimes associated with farm attacks are, therefore, included in the most serious category of crimes SAPS reports on,” Cele said.
The SAPS recently adopted a national rural safety strategy to curb crime in farming communities. “It recognises the need for a national response to address crime in rural areas and the need to work with stakeholders in and outside government in this regard.”
“All serious and violent crimes are focus areas in the reviewed national rural safety plan that was implemented on March 1,” Cele said, adding that the plan will be implemented over a period of five years until 2025.
The DA has been vocal about attacks on the country’s farms, and launched a watching briefs campaign to monitor cases of farm attacks in court.
Farm attacks also received the attention of Deputy President David Mabuza, who condemned violent attacks on farmers and people in rural farming communities. He stressed the importance of the agricultural sector to the country’s economy and called on all South Africans to value farmers and farm workers, and to be relentless in pursuit of a better country.
Cele said police are ploughing resources into detecting and preventing farm attacks. “All incidents in rural areas, including farms and small holdings, are analysed weekly, and provinces and police stations are tasked to address identified hotspots. Rural safety co-ordinators have been appointed to coordinate all activities within the rural policing area and to strengthen implementation of the national safety plan at police station level,” he said.