A farming organisation in KwaZulu-Natal believes more is needed to secure the arrests and convictions of farm attackers as they remain a threat to food security.
This comes after an AfriForum report suggested that South Africa has the lowest rate of arrests and convictions in farm attack and murder cases, with more than 95% of the matters yet to be resolved in four years.
The report, released on Tuesday, says out of 1,402 farm attacks recorded by the SA Police Service (SAPS) between 2019 and 2022, there have been convictions in only 66 cases. Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the North West and the Northern Cape did not have any murder convictions for the period under review.
KZN managed a murder conviction rate of more than 55%.
However, the African Farmers’ Association of SA (Afasa) KZN chairperson Mbongeni Sikhakhane said this was not enough.
“Food security is very important as KZN has some of the largest producers in the country. We have seen the ongoing attacks … that put food security under serious threat. We would have loved to have 100%, or at least around 90% of cases, being resolved,” he said.
“We need to assure farmers that they are safe to operate and thus increase the economy, fight unemployment and ensure that criminals are locked up.”
Sikhakhane said the police should reconsider their geographic location and work towards accommodating that. He said this includes ensuring those police stations in farming areas have bakkies and horses to be efficient when responding on bad roads and uphill drives.
“The issue of stock theft was also a challenge and in fact the province is under serious siege over this. Most of the farmers reside in isolated areas and the response time … is too long. We have also called on police around farming areas to at least have horses so they will be able to respond and also chase thieves and attackers in the hills and in bush areas.”
In the report, AfriForum said it developed its own database that tracks and documents farm attacks and murders from 2019. It said the arrest and conviction numbers in this report are based on official SAPS crime statistics.
The Western Cape had the highest arrest rate (67%) of all the provinces, and recorded just nine murder incidents. The Eastern Cape recorded 29 murders, with an arrest rate (62%) that is the second highest.
Mpumalanga and Gauteng had the lowest rates of arrests relative to incidents, with 20% and 11% respectively.
The total arrest rate for all the provinces was 49%.
AfriForum said while convictions are expected to almost always be lower than arrests, the low conviction rate suggests a serious deficiency within either the SAPS or NPA.
“Farmers and people living on smallholdings, like other victims of crime, deserve fair and speedy justice. Unfortunately, the findings of this report indicate that there are significant delays and inefficiencies within the criminal justice system, leading to protracted court cases and a lack of closure for victims,” says the report.
“The low conviction rates and slow pace of the proceedings worsen the insecurity and fear among these communities, underscoring the urgent need for reform.”
AfriForum community safety spokesperson Jacques Broodryk said weak investigative work, ineffective prosecutions and the government’s unwillingness to tackle rural safety and farm attacks, in particular, are probably the reason for the shocking findings.
“The figures reveal a bitter truth, namely that farm attackers not only believe that they can get away with their inexcusable crimes, they know it. That is why it is now more important than ever for farming communities to organise themselves, be trained and set up robust safety networks,” he said.
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