Southern Cape farmers make a plan with crime


By Alet Engelbrecht

Farmers from the Southern Cape increasingly fear for their lives as attacks by armed robbers on farms in the Garden Route district increase. These farmers have lost faith in the government’s ability to protect them and have now set up a community-driven security initiative to tackle the problem.

According to AfriForum’s crime statistics, there were 19 farm attacks in the first half of the year. The 37-year-old Ruan Hechter from a farm in Saasveld near George, was shot dead during a farm attack in July. Two weeks ago, two elderly women from Caledon were brutally assaulted and robbed of household goods and jewellery.

Agri-Western Cape’s regional representative in the Southern Cape, Henry Meyer, says the agricultural community is particularly concerned about the lack of crime intelligence between the various police stations in the Western Cape.

“It seems as if information is not passed on from one police station to another in the same region. The security plan according to which communities, farm guards and other institutions work together with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to combat crime and apprehend criminals is flawed. This is because the police do not have the necessary resources such as vehicles to carry out the plan properly.” He says the SAPS recently hosted a workshop in George on rural security, but Agri-Western Cape, which represents 3,500 farmers, was not involved. “It makes us discouraged.”

Fighting crime ‘by the people, for the people’

Security leaders of the Garden Route held a workshop on Friday at the NG Church on Herold, where the security expert Roland de Vries and his wife, Henriette, shared their knowledge about rural security and trauma resilience with leaders from various institutions. Representatives of government institutions, the police, civil society organizations and the business community attended the session. A workshop that was open to all members of the public, where they could participate in discussions and planning regarding crime fighting, was also held today (Saturday).

Among other things, an overall strategy for community safety was looked at, with the aim of developing a contingency plan.

According to Kemp Myburgh, formerly a legal officer in the South African National Defense Force (SANW) and who now grows proteas in the George area, there is a specific focus on farm attacks and other violent crimes. The handling of natural disasters and violent protests was also discussed.

After the workshop, De Vries would help with the writing of an operational plan with implementation instructions. Myburgh explains that such a contingency plan is very important and indicates to the members of the community concerned what the process is to follow in the event of a crime.

“Matters must be handled sensitively, and it is important that people do not take matters into their own hands. Many times there are also legal aspects involved.”

Myburgh says good planning saves lives and leads to action that results in economic, social and societal stability. “It’s a community-driven security initiative by our people, for our people.”