Cape Town - The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and Agri SA have signed an agreement to deploy rural security (home guards) to help curb farm murders and improve rural safety and security.
The two organisations said the establishment of a mutually beneficial relationship, specifically to explore integrated rural economic development and rural security initiatives, would assist distressed communities, including farming communities.
SANDF chief general Solly Shoke said the Defence Force should be a role-player in assisting residents in distress as well as farming communities, “and should be a bridge builder”.
Shoke said he was aware of the security and safety threat faced by farming communities along the international borders and that cross-border crime should be dealt with to address this.
He said the function of the home guards would be to assist with an organised and co-ordinated blanket coverage of the country's rural areas, which will allow the SANDF to become even more proactive in its approach to operations.
“Home guard members will receive basic military training, including additional training such as information gathering, dealing with disasters and providing support for communities in distress.
"They will play a vital role in rural safety and security,” he said.
Women on Farms Project programme co-ordinator Carmen Louw said she was disappointed with Agri SA and the SANDF for not consulting and informing them about the joint initiative.
Agri SA welcomed the initiative, saying it could improve rural safety, security and the further implementation of the national rural safety strategy.
Agri SA President Pierre Vercueil, said the organisation wanted to work with the Defence Force to enhance the contribution of agriculture to food security and to address poverty in rural areas.
“The safety of our farming communities along the SA borders is important to Agri SA.
"For this reason, Agri SA and the SANDF should work together to help improve rural safety and security,” said Vercueil.
He said both organisations agreed that agriculture was an appropriate vehicle to contribute towards economic growth.
Therefore, it was important to deal effectively with crime and other community problems along the borders and in rural areas.
“Agri SA learnt from the SANDF presentations that koba-tlala is the flagship project of Shoke, whereby the SANDF will not necessarily structure for its contribution to the developmental agenda but will use its inherent collateral utility and assist in the development of emerging farmers to eradicate poverty with the support of commercial farmers.”