Minister of Police needs to bring back rural safety units

Dianne Kohler-Barnard

DA Shadow Minister for Police

Another gruesome farm attack occurred in the North West last Thursday. This is the second in three weeks and comes on the back of six farm murders across the country in January alone.

The decision by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in 2009 to withhold rural crime statistics means that we do not know with any certainty what the murder rate is in rural areas. But anecdotal evidence tells us that rural murders have been on the increase since the government disbanded the specialised rural safety units of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in 2003.

Perhaps now, after this recent spate of tragic farm killings, the government will sit up and take note of the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) repeated call to bring back the specialised safety units.

I will be writing to the Minister of Police today urging the establishment of a specialised Border and Rural Safety division within the SAPS, and the creation of Rural Reaction Units to be permanently deployed to clearly identified rural crime hotspots on a rotating basis.

The South African government has a duty to protect all South Africans no matter where they live. It cannot be right that the resources of the state are overwhelmingly directed to urban crime at the expense of rural crime.

I am sure that the government will acknowledge that an unintended consequence of its failure to protect rural South Africans has led to the escalation of vigilante paramilitary groups such as the Kommandokorps. These groups are intent on causing division in our society by using farm murders as a means to drive their right-wing racist agenda.

We can stop the proliferation of these racist groups by bringing back specialised units that are dedicated to protecting all South Africans in rural areas.

Efforts to improve rural safety and inform rural crime prevention initiatives should also be strengthened through improvements in rural crime intelligence gathering and analysis by a specialised SAPS Rural Intelligence Centre.

We do not need paramilitary units that abuse the legitimate safety concerns of rural South Africans to drive a racist agenda. What we urgently require is a SAPS Border and Rural Safety Division to help protect South Africans living outside urban areas.

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