Rural areas wait for rollout of security units

Safety in rural areas is back under the spotlight with police minister Nathi Mthethwa announcing that rural crime-fighting units – comprising policemen and reservists – would be introduced by March next year.

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Agri SA’s Rural Safety Committee chairperson André Botha welcomed the news and called on Mthethwa to activate the units as soon as possible. He also called on the SA Police Service (SAPS) to urgently finalise its reservist policy and the rural protection strategy.

“After the phasing-out of the commando system and given the delays experienced with the finalisation of the reservist policy, rural communities remain vulnerable to crime,” said Botha.“We expect the police to make optimal use of the units, within the rural protection strategy, to combat crime.” Botha said every rural station should have a unit consisting of a squad of police officers supplemented with reservists.

Even stations such as Vereeniging, Springs and Benoni must have a unit. “That’s because although they’re urban stations, they also cover a rural segment,” explained Botha.His organisation was still awaiting a decision from the police on whether reservists would be allowed to use police weapons and take them home, and whether police would take responsibility for damage caused to reservists’ own vehicles while on duty.

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“We’re also waiting for the police to do their allocation and redistribution of equipment and transport. This is a serious problem as there is no dedicated equipment,” added Botha. “We need to give the police a bit of time to sort out these issues and to implement the rollout.”

Equipment, like vehicles and radios, bought for the Soccer World Cup’s security purposes, will be used for these units.While discussing crime statistics for the period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010, Mthethwa expressed concern about the continuing rise in stock theft, saying the SAPS was reviewing the functioning of stock-theft units and the legislation to combat stock theft more effectively.

Stock theft stats Stock theft for the period increased 6,5%, from 30 043 to 32 380. In the Eastern Cape, reported cases rose from 6 808 to 7 586, in the Free State from 5 005 to 5 033, in Gauteng from 798 to 886, in KwaZulu-Natal from 7 541 to 7 967, in Limpopo from 1 453 to 1 552, in Mpumalanga from 3 155 to 3 330, in the North West from 2 776 to 3 148, in the Northern Cape from 1 600 to 1 769 and in the Western Cape from 907 to 1 109.

Mthethwa’s spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said police and farmers should learn from each other. “Where we have the most success is in areas where we have strong partnerships with the community. The police need to form a partnership with farmers, farmworkers and other stakeholders.” Mnisi also reassured the public that the crime statistics could be trusted, saying they had been audited.