Farm attacks have tripled in four years in the Eastern Cape, and as Covid-19 took hold this year, stock thieves plundered livestock worth almost R18m in three months.
Startling statistics revealed by the provincial government in response to questions fired off to the legislature by the DA, has prompted the party to demand an immediate rural safety summit bringing together the Eastern Cape government and stakeholders.
Drones, special police units, ramped-up intelligence gathering, state money for farm and village patrols run by the community and private security firms, needed to be put on the table urgently, said long-serving DA MPL Bobby Stevenson, who is the party’s shadow safety & security MEC.
On Wednesday, Stevenson tore into the farm and rural crime statistics released by provincial safety & security MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe in response to the questions.
Stevenson said they now knew that:
- There were 74 farm attacks in the province in the 2019/20 financial year;
- Farm attacks rose from 26 in 2016/17 to 34 in 2017/18 and 48 in 2018/19; and
- Addo is a farm attack hotspot with 14 of the 74 attacks occurring there.
Stevenson said: “The official crime statistics released last month showed the Eastern Cape, along with the Free State, had the highest number of farm murders in the country, with 12 people murdered on farms in each province.”
Livestock theft “soared” during lockdown, with 5,636 animals valued at R17.9m stolen between May and July.
Eight Eastern Cape police stations had dominated the list of stations recording stock theft cases in South Africa.
He said the “dramatic rise” in attacks on farms highlighted a sustained and brutal assault on Eastern Cape farming.
He said: “These attacks are a warning flag of increasing violent crime in rural communities in the Eastern Cape.”
Farmers, established and emerging, as well as rural villages, were “under siege”.
“Rural villages are bearing the brunt of violent crime. Since January 11 people have been killed in Mdeni village in the Ngcobo area.
“Last year it was reported that in Kwamlaza village, in the Port St Johns municipality, villagers fled their homes after nine people, eight of them women, were hacked to death, or raped and then killed, over a five-year period, with no successful prosecutions.
“Rural police are severely under-resourced.”
In her answers, Tikana-Gxothiwe said only 20 of 162 rural police stations had adequate staff and resources.
Stevenson said the party wanted research and crime information to be loaded onto an online “dashboard” for all to see.
Along with extra and specialist police investigators working with drones to hunt down farm killers, the party wanted farm attacks to be reclassified as priority crimes, which would release more state resources.
Stevenson said they were pushing for tax relief measures for those in rural areas, such as farmers, who had to pay for private security companies, as well as subsidies for farm patrollers, farm watchers, and companies providing security in rural communities.
He said criminals who attacked farms were simultaneously destroying jobs and food security.
He challenged Tikana-Gxothiwe to immediately call a summit to air advice and facilitate assistance from a wide range of experts. Stevenson said farm attacks and rural violence wreaked terror and insecurity in the minds of millions of rural people.