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Farmers In Outcry On Crime – Union raises alarm citing ‘a rising wave of offences’

The Witness

29 Jun 2020

NIYANTA SINGH •niyanta.singh@witness.co.za

AGRICULTURAL union Kwanalu is concerned about the spike in crime, as farmers face a wave of crop theft, poaching, stock theft, arson and other offences against individuals.

Kwanalu, the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union, has called on its members to increase their vigilance and to work together with the police and private security forces.

“We are concerned with the recent spike in incidents in rural areas and the severe negative effects, and the impact this increase is having on farmers and those living in rural communities,” said CEO of Kwanalu, Sandy la Marque.

The increased incidents of crime include poaching, stock theft, crop theft, theft of farm implements, arson and crimes against individuals.

“We call on authorities to scale up their visibility and implement rural safety plans to protect our members,” said La Marque.

She said the National Rural Safety Strategy, that existed as a sound platform focusing on rural safety and security matters, needed to be an organic strategy that was constantly being refined and reactive to these incidents.

“In KZN, we are fortunate to have a good working relationship with our provincial SAPS office and many of the security clusters and SAPS stations who prioritise farm attacks.

“This is vital and results in these serious cases being attended to, and for this we are very grateful,” said La Marque.

However, she identified shortcomings and challenges of the National Rural Safety

Strategy, citing a lack of rural patrols by the SAPS, a shortage of SAPS vehicles and a shortage of manpower at some police stations.

All these, she said, together with the noted increase in crime related to socioeconomic circumstances as well as an increase in service delivery protests, placed pressure on the strategy.

La Marque has called on all local structures to work closely with the SAPS, reporting all crimes in order for “hot spots” to be identified.

“Kwanalu works closely with the SAPS and we have for many years now formulated tips and guidelines for our members to utilise and implement in order to increase their security.

“We would like to encourage all people in rural communities to continually seek ways to improve their security at home and on their farms,” said La Marque.

Local farmers said different kinds of crime happened on a “seasonal basis”.

“Sometimes we see an increase in the theft of implements, then it’s crop theft, while at other times it is stock theft and poaching. It’s difficult to develop a strategy as we don’t always know what to expect,” said one farmer.

Another farmer said crop theft was always a huge problem, especially in winter, and caused problems for small-scale farmers as their profit margins were extremely tight. “Most times, crop theft makes a huge dent. Fences are damaged and that is an additional expense,” said another farmer.

Vegetables, sugar cane and maize are the most common crops stolen.