Increase SAPS response to Mpumalanga farm attacks: DA

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

The DA is deeply concerned over the dramatic increase in farm attacks across our province, and calls on national police commissioner General Ria Phiyega to immediately increase policing in our rural areas.

During the past two weeks three brutal farm attacks occurred in the Nelspruit area, where the victims were savagely beaten and tortured by armed attackers. Reports have also emerged of the murder of a 77-year-old farmer near Ermelo late yesterday afternoon.

While the DA passes on its deepest condolences for the family of the deceased, and wishes the survivors of the other attacks a speedy recovery, we have to face the fact that every attack or incidence of crime in the agricultural production sector puts the country at risk.

Rural safety in Mpumalanga is critically important to food security, job security and sustainable agricultural growth, and the SAPS needs to increase proactive and visible policing as a matter of urgency.

The vacuum left by the abandonment of the “Kommando” system in 2007, has left rural communities increasingly vulnerable to crime, especially violent crime. Recognising the threat to rural communities, the DA has called for the establishment of highly specialised rural safety units, that are suitably trained and equipped to deal with rural crime prevention, as well as hot pursuit operations against perpetrators.

In addition, it is almost five years since government has effectively placed  a moratorium on the recruitment of reservists, and while police minister Nathi Mthethwa finally approved the minimum requirements in October last year, General Phiyega has yet to operationalize it.

While police are working closely with private security companies as well as neighbourhood and community watch organisations, the response to crime would be more constructive and better coordinated if community watch members were accorded the opportunity to join the reservists, and play a more active role in safeguarding their own communities.

The fact is, the number of police officials in Mpumalanga is woefully inadequate to deal with violent crime, and despite numerous meetings with provincial commissioner Lt Gen Thulani Ntobela to discuss the fights against crime, the situation is yet to improve.

To this end we will write to Gen Phiyega and request that the SAPS operationalizes the reservist recruitment policy as a matter of urgency, and to increase police deployment to Mpumalanga without delay.