President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday called for greater coordination and better communication between the South African Police Service (Saps), business, farming organisations and communities, as well as integrated communications technologies to increase the success of the rural safety strategy.
Addressing the nation in his weekly letter, Ramaphosa condemned violent crimes on farms in the wake of the murder of Free State farmer Brendin Horner, last week.
Two suspects were arrested, after which some farmers undertook violent protests.
Ramaphosa called out vigilantism and urged collaboration between farm watch organisations and community policing forums, with the specific involvement of farmworkers.
“Those people who think that farm attacks affect just a small part of our population are wrong. The farming community is an integral part of our economy. The farming community produces the food that we eat. Violent crime on farms poses not just a threat to the safety of our rural communities, but to our nation’s food security. The claim that violent crime on farms is part of an orchestrated campaign by blacks to drive white farmers off their land is simply not borne out by fact,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that Horner’s murder has opened “wounds that go back many generations” and said the violent protests that took place show that there are still divisions and mistrust from the past.
Ramaphosa said to successfully deal with violent crime, particularly in rural areas, racial attitudes that prevent a united response must be challenged.
He warned against lobby groups labelling killings on farms as “ethnic cleansing” and “genocidal” and said these crimes were a reminder of the levels of violence in the country.
“We would be naïve to assume that race relations in farming communities have been harmonious since the advent of democracy. Unless this is addressed in an open and honest manner, unless we are prepared to engage in dialogue, this will remain a festering wound that threatens social cohesion,” Ramaphosa pointed out.
Crime is a collective problem, he stated, urging communities to not shelter criminals.
Ramaphosa also called on farmers to provide law-enforcement with access to their properties and urged private security to work with the Saps and ensure any arrests are made in line with the country’s Constitution.
Investment in rural development was also touted as a way to tackle inequality in farming communities, and in turn, poverty, which Ramaphosa says is a major contributing factor to crime.
“One murder is a murder too many. We stand in solidarity with all victims of crime, regardless of whether they live in cities or on farms, whether they are farmers or farmworkers. We must not be blinded by our own prejudices to the suffering and pain of others. It should not matter to us if the victim of violent crime is black or white. To do so would be a betrayal not just of this country’s founding principles, but of our own humanity,” Ramaphosa said.