Farm attacks on the increase

While a joint operation between TAU SA and the South African Police Service ensured a relatively crime-free festive season in Limpopo, criminals were back in full force in January, with the latest victim Johannes Prinsloo, found dead in his bedroom with his hands and feet tied.

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The 84-year-old owner of a filling station and a farm shop, just outside Settlers near Bela-Bela in Limpopo, is believed to have had a heart attack or to have been strangled to death during a robbery, but police are waiting for an autopsy to confirm the cause of death. Prinsloo is one of a growing list of rural crime victims this month:

  • Marble hall police are looking for five suspects who robbed and kidnapped Rev Albert Venter of the NG Church in Marble Hall.
  • A female farmstall owner, 50-year-old Stephina Ledwaba of Rooipoort farm near Potgietersrus in Limpopo, was found dead in her stall. Police arrested a man hiding on the farm where her stall was located.
  • A farm dog in the Thornville area of KZN killed a suspected thief allegedly intent on robbing the Chonco family.
  • A Bronkhorstspruit farmer is recovering in Hospital after being shot during a robbery on his farm.
  • An 80-year-old Hazyview farmer, near the Kruger National park, was stoned to death by two armed men who raped his wife when they couldn’t find money.
  • A Belfast farmer in Mpumalanga was saved by a rusty pistol that jammed when a robber took a shot at him. The jammed gun gave the farmer a chance to draw his own firearm to shoot back, killing the attacker.
  • Last week a 17-year-old youth was arrested in connection with the murder of Saar Holtzhauzen (64), of the farm Rietfontein near Nelspruit, found murdered in her house earlier this month.

The commando issue again
André Botha, chairperson of the Agri SA Rural Safety Committee, said government had failed rural communities by not honouring its promise to fill the vacuum created by the phasing out of the commando system. He said the escalating number of farm attacks is fuelled by a lack of visible policing, and that Agri SA had warned government as early as 2003 that phasing out the commando system prematurely, without an effective alternative, would lead to a vacuum in the rural protection system.

According to a report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), no feasibility study was done to determine if the police could provide the same level of security. “Government’s take was that no commando would not be closed down until the police were able to take over their function. This was to be achieved by introducing sector policing and making more resources available to promote rural safety,” said Botha.

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He said Agri SA and its members remain committed to implementing a successful sector policing system backed by rural reservists.  “We asked the Minister of Safety and Security for a meeting to discuss the effective implementation of such a system,” said Botha.

A worrying admission
Chris van Zyl, TAU SA assistant general manager, said the union is deeply concerned about the minister of safety and security, Nathi Mthethwa’s, admission that there are corrupt police officials. “Of greater concern is the fact that members of the police who could be corrupt are involved in the firearm-licensing process,” said Van Zyl. TAU SA is also very concerned that corrupt police officers may enter law abiding citizens’ homes to inspect safes, and in the process gain access to sensitive information which could be passed on to criminals.