Cele needs to act to ensure rural safety and South Africa’s food security

As Minister Bheki Cele delivers his budget vote on policing today, it is imperative that the Department of Police’s budget includes meaningful resource allocation towards the implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy.  

“We are of the view that the strategy is an appropriate vehicle to deal with the crime issues affecting farming communities provided that it is properly implemented and adequately resourced. This is a vital step in the preservation of the country’s food production capacity,” says Uys van der Westhuijzen, Chair of Agri SA Centre for Excellence Rural Safety. 

The minister’s budget vote speech comes almost 11 months after the June 2022 Rural Safety Summit, which was intended to be a watershed moment for the sector’s cooperation with the police in ensuring greater safety for our food producing farming communities. It is, therefore, a source of great disappointment for Agri SA that little to no progress has been made available towards the implementation of the strategy or utilising the summit findings to improve its effectiveness. 

As farmers battle economic, infrastructure and policy headwinds that vastly increase the cost of food production, it is vital for the country’s food security that rural crime does not continue to add to the burdens encumbering our rural farming communities. This strategy cannot be allowed to become just one more unfulfilled promise. 

Among the initial steps that must be taken and highlighted by Agri SA at the summit and which we hope to see funded in this budget, are: 

1.     The implementation of a well-resourced rural reservists’ system;

2.     Significant improvement in the effectiveness of criminal investigations;

3.     Emphasis on suspect detention paired with the opposition of bail by the police;

4.     Effective crime intelligence and crime analysis; and

5.     The creation of police task teams and rapid response units in hotspot areas.

The challenge of ensuring rural safety is a mammoth task. Agri SA is under no illusion that this will not easily be resolved in a country with sky high levels of crime across the board. However, rural safety must be a key component of the nation’s crime prevention strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of our farming communities and food security.

The minister need not wait for the upcoming crime statistics; it is evident that the safety situation in the country is bleak, particularly in rural farming communities where policing resources are severely stretched.   

Agri SA and its members invested significant effort and time into advocating for the strategy, and they cannot bear to see it languish any longer. “We therefore call on Minister Cele to use this opportunity during his address to Parliament to demonstrate his seriousness that has been lacking in the more effective implementation of the strategy,” says van der Westhuijzen. 

Media enquiries:

Kobus Visser

Director: Agri SA Rural Safety & Provincial Affairs

082 388 0010

Uys van der Westhuijzen

Chair of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Rural Safety

083 321 9356