Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Special task team to probe KZN farm attacks

Special task team to probe KZN farm attacks
Amil Umraw, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - The South African Police Service’s Provincial Task Team has been assigned to investigate all farm-related incidents, especially murders.

Five farmers have been slain and 15 others attacked in the province between January 1 and May 1 — a worrying figure that has not dropped since last year.

“Police management has prioritised policing in rural communities as they are more vulnerable to attacks by criminals. Police visibility has been increased in rural areas — Visible Policing members are deployed on a 24-hour basis. Whilst we urge farmers to beef up the security within their premises and take extra precautions, it is very important they be active in the police forums and not only attend meetings when they are victims of crime,” said police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane.

He said all crime on farms in the province was “monitored by our rural safety forum”. “All farm murders are given priority and are investigated by the Provincial Task Team. In most of the cases suspects have been arrested and they are in court for prosecution.”

KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) security desk chairperson Koos Marais said the highest rate of attacks on commercial farmers in the province is in the Kwadakuza area near Stanger, with Camperdown taking second place. Marais said the problem is widespread and criminal incidents of this nature are not opportunistic — they are planned attacks by criminals who familiarise themselves with the operations on the farm.

“One should never underestimate the intimidation of farm workers by these criminals. This is, in most cases, how criminals gain the information about where the safe and firearms are kept and when the farmer has made a large sale and has cash on hand,” Marais said. “The figures … may not be increasing, but it is worrying that this issue still exists.”

Marais said the union, with the police, have established a Rural Protection Plan where union members meet with provincial police management on a monthly basis to discuss safety measures on farms. “Across the province, farming associations have also established close ties with police leadership at cluster and station levels within their area,” Marais said.

However, the problem is still faced on the ground.

“A problem still exists with the lack of visible policing in rural areas and the time it takes for the police to respond to an incident. We do understand there are sometimes great distances between police stations and farms,” Marais said.

In an e-mail to The Witness last week, KZN Department of Community Safety and Liaision spokesperson Sipho Khumalo confirmed police in farming areas have “special” security plans and arrangements with communities to ensure they are protected and, at times, their safety prioritised.

“The department has special arrangements with some farm associations that have been encouraged to work with the local communities and community based organisations such as the KwaZulu-Natal Community Crime Prevention Association (KZNCCPA),” Khumalo said. “Indications are these partnerships have improved security in farming communities and have assisted in the recovery of stolen stock,” said Khumalo.

Read more on: pietermaritzburg | kwazulu-natal | farm attacks

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