The SAPS implemented its Rural Safety Strategy between 2011 to 2014 in an effort to address the ongoing violent crimes perpetrated against rural communities, as well as the high levels of stock theft. Crime in rural areas, including incidents on farms and smallholdings, has steadily decreased since the implementation of the strategy.
A process to review this strategy was started during the 2014/2015 financial year in conjunction with stakeholders such as Agri SA. Workshops have now been presented in all nine provinces. The purpose of reviewing the strategy was to analyse its success as an operational approach in ensuring that safety and security in rural communities are adequately addressed, and treated as a priority.
In addition, key individuals and decision-makers with operational experience have been brought together to identify shortcomings in implementation. This includes identifying the specific needs of rural communities and assessing the current strategy’s relevance in adequately addressing crime in rural areas. An added aim is to assess the level of service delivery to rural communities, and the development and implementation of a sustainable approach to address rural safety. This will ensure a stable environment in which to achieve food security.
The results of the stakeholder workshops and recommendations of the National Development Plan will be taken into account in this regard. The consultation process will be concluded with a Rural Safety Summit during the third quarter of the 2015/2016 financial year.
Once the process is concluded, an improved strategy for the future will be implemented to support the establishment of a stable and secure rural environment.In general, all stakeholders are in agreement with the importance of having adequate and appropriate resources. This includes well-trained police officers, detectives and stock theft units dedicated to visible rural policing. Additional issues are infrastructure such as roads and communication systems, the use of mobile SAPS units, reservists, the role of traditional leaders, and access to farms to engage farm workers.
This comprehensive strategy should, however, be implemented in its totality. This includes early warning systems to address long distances and lack of infrastructure, the involvement of farm workers, and SAPS-supported farm-watch structures.
Other issues are the use of technology and social media, mobilisation of rural communities for crime prevention, joint crime prevention training workshops, development of safety plans, and support for rural safety structures from the business sector. A monitoring system for the implementation of these measures should also be instituted.
Holistic crime prevention
The existing Rural Safety Strategy addresses rural safety as part of an integrated and holistic day-to-day crime prevention approach. This has been achieved through enhanced service delivery, accessibility, improved police response times, and partnerships. It calls for the involvement of all policing units in an integrated multi-disciplinary manner to strengthen integrated and coordinated deployment along South Africa’s borders to combat cross-border crime and enhance regional cooperation.
The strategy also aims to establish safety networks, ensure community awareness and education, and mobilise communities in crime prevention initiatives. An added objective has been to integrate the efforts of government and external stakeholders, as well as strengthen the principles of sector policing to facilitate community interaction and mobilisation.
Isolation and lack of resources
Rural and farming communities need special attention in terms of the National Development Plan. As these communities are situated far from national and provincial government authorities, corporate businesses, and other non-governmental resources, they are exposed to greater crime and safety risks. Rural police stations are often isolated and their areas of jurisdiction are vast. These distances and a lack of resources make it difficult to attend to domestic violence complaints and child safety problems. The distance from courts is also a constraint for witnesses, and legal aid and other criminal justice services are not readily available. All these factors can compromise the outcome of the judicial process.
Integrated strategy needed
An important aspect that resonated with stakeholders throughout the stakeholder engagement sessions was the need for an integrated strategy to solve the unique problems of safety and security in rural and farming communities. This could be achieved by mobilising all the members of these communities in successful community policing strategies.
An holistic approach like this would include productive collaboration between government, the private sector and civil society. However, effective policing is only one part of the solution. Social upliftment, rural development, education, accountability by all government departments, and active community involvement, are all essential for success. It is only through targeted efforts to address these challenges that rural communities can be transformed, their rights secured and their dignity restored.
Email Brig Judith le Roux at [email protected].