Summit needs concrete action plan to ensure safety of the rural farming community

The Rural Safety Summit began today, 27 June 2022 at Woodlands Country Lodge, Parys in the Free State. As the country continues to face violent attacks in farming communities, Minister Bheki Cele acknowledged the problem of poor response times by the police and the corrosive effect of corruption within the police service. While Agri SA commends the effort to fight corruption internally, we also need to see concrete steps toward building safer rural communities.

Other issues raised by the minister include the ongoing racial divisions in some farming communities, the impact of illegal migrants on the ability of law enforcement to do its works effectively, and the urgency of addressing poverty in rural communities.  

Agri SA is invested in the successful conclusion of the summit with the hope that the parties will emerge with a concrete action plan to address the dangers that rural communities face. These dangers are not limited to extreme events such as violent murders and unrest, but also include the damaging effect of crime and the associated cost for primary agriculture.

The safety of the farming community is a food security issue. As such, the vulnerability of the rural, farming community is a matter of national importance. Farmers and farmworkers produce the food South Africans rely on and contribute to national stability. The Rural Safety Summit must lead to concrete steps to make the farming community safer.

“It is critical that the summit agrees on the urgent steps to be taken to kickstart the effective implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy and to capacitate the police serving rural farming areas so they can adequately protect these communities. This is also crucial if the police are to regain the trust of the rural farming community they serve. We cannot overlook the fact that farmers and farmworkers are targeted in farm attacks as well as during rioting and unrest situations. The fact that the police are inadequately prepared and resourced to assist farming communities in their hour of greatest need is concerning in the extreme” says Uys van der Westhuijzen, the chairperson of the Centre of Excellence on Rural Safety at Agri SA. 

Agri SA supports the Rural Safety Strategy and is encouraged that the summit has been convened to give effect to it. We expect the police to use the occasion of the summit to confirm how they will start to effectively implement the strategy. No new strategies or policies are needed.  Agri SA is 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 resourced.

In its presentation during the opening session of the summit, Agri SA highlighted a few key aspects of the strategy that must be the starting point in implementing it. These include: 

·        The more effective functioning of the priority committee structures.

·        An effectively implemented reservist system with a focus on well-resourced rural reservists with the participation of farmers and

farmworkers. Agri SA recommended as a departure point two reservists per farmer association.

·        More effective criminal investigations, detention of suspects, and opposition of bail by the police.

·        Effective crime intelligence and crime analysis, including analysis of organised crime and the establishment of an integrated, central information center by the police.

·        Greater police visibility and the implementation of blue-white light events in all provinces.

·        Creation of police task teams and rapid response units in hotspot areas.

“Trust in the police will only be rebuilt when the farming community believes that the police are willing and able to help protect them and to conduct professional criminal investigations. To do this, there must be an emphasis on the first two pillars of the strategy: building effective human and physical capacity and capability in rural areas, and improving access to policing, investigative capacity, and service delivery for the farming community.  Agri SA trust that rural areas will be prioritised in the placement of the new recruits and reservists, and in the allocation of resources. These measures are essential if we are to ensure proper service delivery for rural communities. Without delivery, the extensive engagement over the course of the summit will be of no value,” said van der Westhuijzen.


Kobus Visser

Director: Agri SA Rural Safety & Provincial Affairs

(C) 082 388 0010

Uys van der Westhuijzen

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

(C) 083 321 9356