Agricultural union TLU SA is urging Minister of Police Bheki Cele and President Cyril Ramaphosa to activate the local Farm Watches. South Africans can support this action by signing a petition.
Patrolling by the watches has been prohibited since the inception of the lockdown. TLU SA said since then there had been a marked and concerning increase in the theft of agricultural products and livestock.
“Rural safety with the emphasis on violent crimes on farms and smallholdings became a national crime priority in 1998,” TLU SA’s deputy general manager Major General Chris van Zyl said.
“In support of and with the approval of the South African Police Force (SAPS), the Farm Watches have been contributing to monitoring routes with rural patrols in agricultural areas and helping with traffic monitoring services since the nineties. It also applies to crimes committed outside the farming sector where suspects try to escape via any possible routes. The SAPS has always welcomed this service.”
TLU SA took the initiative in creating the National Agricultural Safety Strategy in late 2017, and ASUF (Agri Sector Unity Forum) accepted and approved it by early 2018. The strategy – updated and amended annually – creates a uniform contribution from agriculture in support of the Rural Safety Strategy of SAPS.
“The lockdown and management of law and order puts a lot of pressure on the SAPS, but it is concentrated in high-density areas and on roads where higher visible policing is necessary to enforce the regulations of the lockdown,” said Van Zyl. “As a result, the less dense agricultural areas are not guaranteed effective and precautionary policing. The importance of Farm Watch activities thus increases exponentially.”
The available information indicates that farm murders decreased during the first three weeks of the lockdown in comparison with the three weeks before lockdown (with seven attacks and two murders in contrast with 16 attacks and five murders). But, during the same period, the theft of agricultural products and livestock increased.
“It is in the national interest of South Africa that agricultural production is protected to maintain food security,” he said. “Against this background, the Minister of Police’s refusal to let Farm Watches continue with community safety like in the past does not make sense. The sooner the government realises the shortsightedness of the unnecessary and senseless lockdown, and allow the Farm Watches to continue with their unique function, the better.”
TLU SA created a platform where South Africans can support the appeal to pressure the government to activate the Farm Watch. The petition is available at https://www.tlu.co.za/en/farm-watch/.