Farming communities to embark on ‘supportive protest’ awareness campaign

The scene outside a victim's farm in Houtpoort. Image: Heidelberg/Nigel Heraut. Photo for illustration only.

The farming community has been increasingly vulnerable to attacks and crime since lockdown Level 3 was implemented, says AgriSA, which has pledged its support for upcoming peaceful protests.

Within the next two months, a supportive protest will be conducted by farmers to raise awareness of the seriousness of farm attacks and related crimes. 

AgriSA centre of excellence for rural safety chairperson Tommie Esterhuyse said the farming community has been increasingly vulnerable to attacks and crime since lockdown Level 3 was implemented.

At the moment, the biggest problem plaguing the farming community across the country is increasing farm and smallholding attacks and murders, Esterhuyse said. 

Crime statistics for 2019/20 showed an increase in murders on farms and smallholdings. Between April 2019 and March 2020, there were 49 murders in 46 incidents, two more than last year’s figures. 

There are approximately 87,000 farms and smallholdings in South Africa, 33,000 of which are commercial farms. Most are situated in the Free State, North West, Eastern and Western Cape, and Limpopo.

The theft of property and products on farms are steadily becoming problematic as well, he added, explaining that oranges are being stolen in Limpopo, grapes in the Western Cape, and maize across the country. 

This includes stock theft, and the illegal hunting of game with dogs on farm properties. Esterhuyse said steenbuck and blesbok are commonly targeted, which affects the livelihoods of farmers waiting to resume game hunting. He said snares were being used as well. 

Esterhuyse emphasised that AgriSA was cognisant of the connection between illegal hunting, hunger and poverty, but emphasised that “we have to address it in another way”.

“We know there’s a lack of manpower in police, and a lack of infrastructure, and we have to get involved to address this shortfall.”

Crime increasing in farming communities under lockdown Level 3 has AgriSA worried, and was one of the problems discussed with divisional commissioner of visible policing Lieutenant General MD Sempe, on 28 July. 

This formed part of the National Rural Safety Strategy, implemented in 2019. 

Covid-19 exacerbating a host of issues faced by the farming community has prompted AgriSA to show its support for upcoming awareness campaigns to be carried out across the country. 

Esterhuyse assured that all protests would adhere to regulations stipulated in the Disaster Management Act, and that no demonstrations will be violent or destructive. 

“With the protests, we must be supportive – to farmers and SAPS for being part of the solution, rather than to criticise.” 

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