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Free State Agriculture (FSA) has expressed its serious concern for the safety of agricultural communities along the Lesotho border, following yet another incident in which three farm workers were injured during a shooting incident. One worker succumbed to his injuries.
Free State Agriculture has confirmed that the workers were shot by Lesotho citizens on 28 October 2021 on the farm Balmacara in the Vanstadensrus area. It would appear that the workers were shot several times.
According to Jakkals le Roux, Chairman of FSA’s Rural Safety Committee, the workers were shot by 5 attackers from Lesotho. The attackers apparently moved back across the border to Lesotho. Le Roux further says that the farm Balmacara has for years been characterized as a focal point area for cross-border crime activities, where stolen vehicles, livestock as well as cross-border grazing takes place almost daily. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been stationed on Balmacara for years where soldiers operate from the temporary base.
“The border situation has deteriorated enormously in the last few months, with increasing and growing cross-border crimes that seriously threaten the safety of agricultural communities and also cause large property-related losses for farmers.” says le Roux.
The shooting incident on 28 October 2021 is one of 6 incidents in which victims were killed or shot at in the past month at various border towns, including Wepener, Tweespruit, Ladybrand. The fact that criminals are armed puts even greater pressure on agricultural communities to secure themselves, due to the lack of sufficient manpower, equipment and vehicles at the SANDF and SAPS to effectively address cross-border safety and crime. “Farmers have been extradited to look after their own safety and that of their families and workers.” says Le Roux.
Meanwhile, Martin de Kock, FSA regional representative in the Zastron area, says that more and more information is emerging regarding police officers who have a hand in cross-border crimes. “In many cases, the army is also turning a ‘blind eye to cross-border crimes and many complaints have been received from agricultural communities that soldiers are aware of criminal activities but do nothing about it.“ According to De Kock, many of the criminal activities take place during night hours, where little or almost no crime prevention operations are launched by either the SANDF or SAPS. Written requests for such operations were requested by the agricultural communities of all 13 border towns to the SANDF and SAPS.
FSA is seriously appealing to the heads of the SANDF, the SAPS, the Ministers and the President to prioritize the border situation with greater resources to prevent further loss of life.