The strategy had not had any real effect, said Inkatha Freedom Party agriculture and rural development spokesman Henry Combrinck.
“[It] does not instil confidence in farmers that their safety and security is given any attention.” Reacting to the murder of a 78-year-old farmer near Vryheid on Monday, he said farms were generally isolated, putting them at risk.
It was essential for farmers and farming communities to be provided with security. Willem Weites was shot dead when he went to his daughter’s assistance while she was being held at knife-point by three men on their dairy farm near Vryheid.
The previous week, 56-year-old farmer Dan Knight was beaten to death with a hammer in the lounge of his home while he and his partner watched television. According to the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), there have been nine farm murders so far this year, and 39 non-fatal farm attacks.
Last year, there were four murders and 44 non-fatal farm attacks. Koos Marais, who heads Kwanalu’s security desk, said there was only one murder and 37 attacks in 2011, and 10 murders in 2010 — the highest number in the province since 2003.
The rural safety strategy was launched by former police chief Bheki Cele in July 2011. The strategy envisaged farmers, rural communities and the police working together stop crime, and the police getting suitable equipment and vehicles, including horses and, where necessary, helicopters.
Combrinck said the police had not published statistics for farm murders since 2006/7. “Commercial farmers and farming communities make our country more self-sufficient and a net exporter of various crops,” said Combrinck.
“Farming is of vital importance to our economy, with Statistics SA estimating that 638,000 people are formally employed in the farming sector, and that around 8.5 million people are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their employment and income.”
AgriSA CEO Hans van der Merwe did not believe that the strategy had failed, but said there were problems putting it into practice. Rolling it out was also taking too long.
He said he believed Mthethwa was still committed to the strategy. “There are areas where we have concerns, but it would be tragedy if we were to walk away from this strategy.”
TAU SA spokesman Henk van der Graaf said there had been 15 farm murders in Gauteng so far this year. Nationally, the figure stood at 54 and 181 attacks. He said there were 171 attacks and 63 murders last year.