The announcement of level 4 Covid regulations by the government, which include roadblocks around Gauteng that must be manned by amongst others SAPS Safety Coordinators, could possibly lead to a gap in policing in rural areas. Free State Agriculture (FSA) and the Red Meat Producers Organization (RPO) therefore request farmers to be involved in safety structures in their respective areas, but especially in the Northern Free State, in order to establish readiness and visibility in the rural areas.
Tommie Esterhuyse, vice-president of FSA, says that many Safety Coordinators are being withdrawn from their daily tasks in rural areas to perform service at roadblocks that will be set up on the borders of Gauteng from 1 July. Esterhuyse believes that this action could possibly lead to a gap in policing in rural areas.
Esterhuyse therefore urges farmers to show greater preparedness, vigilance and attentiveness. Liaison of suspicious persons, vehicles and movement, especially during curfew times, must be taken seriously by agricultural communities, especially where farm guard structures are established. Furthermore, FSA recommends that agricultural communities should be involved with higher visibility with regard to white / blue light patrols, especially white light patrols in their respective areas and any information should be passed on to safety representatives of agricultural associations and rural safety coordinators.
In addition to the latter, Isabel Kruger, chairperson of the Stock Theft Prevention Forum of the RPO, also says that there is a worrying increase in stock theft. The Northern Free State in particular is suffering from large numbers of livestock (more than 30) being stolen at one time. “The fact that auctions have currently been stopped by the government at Level 4 should have a significant decrease in the transport of livestock to auction houses, but this will not stop the informal demand and supply of livestock. It can also contribute to slaughters that take place on farms where meat is transported to identified outlets. ” says Kruger.
According to Jakkals le Roux, chairman of the FSA Safety Committee, there is also currently an increase in cross-border crime activities against the RSA / Lesotho border, where agricultural communities become the target of criminals from Lesotho who plunder farmers ‘livestock (sometimes more than 50 at a time) and steal other implements / products such as solar panels, etc. Further crimes such as cutting wires and farmers’ fields being set on fire are also taking place. “In the past week, copper cables from Eskom substations and MTN towers in the Clarens / Fouriesburg area were stolen and vandalized on several occasions. This creates a great safety risk for agricultural communities that have to manage without cellphone signals or electricity supply.” says Le Roux.
Free State Agriculture, on behalf of agricultural communities, makes a serious request to the SANDF and SAPS to join hands with the communities to create higher visibility in the cross-border areas that can also be accompanied by white / blue light patrols. The involvement and participation of especially younger farmers in safety structures is of cardinal importance.