Emerging farmers, especially women, say they are soft targets for criminals and call for more policing in rural areas

File Picture: African News Agency(ANA) Archives.

File Picture: African News Agency(ANA) Archives.

Published Oct 18, 2022


Durban - Woman farmers have called for help from Police Minister Bheki Cele, saying they are sitting ducks for violent attacks from brazen criminals, who are often after their livestock.

The plea was made by women from different parts of South Africa who gathered for the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) conference at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban yesterday.

A farmer from Mpumalanga province, Maria Madisa, told the minister that women were keen to make a mark in farming, but were under constant pressure from criminals.

She appealed for more police to be deployed in farming areas in order for them to feel safe.

“Aside from the police, the minister should consider providing firearm training to women farmers so that when we are under attack we are also able to defend ourselves,” said Madisa.

Her sentiment was echoed by a KwaZulu-Natal farmer, Lee Hlubi, who said it was tough operating as a farmer in a male-dominated sector.

“We are not feeling safe at all and are constantly on the lookout, so we really need the assistance from the police because once thugs know that a certain farm is owned and run by a woman, it becomes a primary target,” said Hlubi, adding that more police patrols would go a long way in ensuring their safety.

Responding to calls for help, Cele said the latest crime statistics show steady improvement in safety in the rural community, but acknowledged that more can be done.

Cele cited the latest statistics which revealed that murder incidents on farms and smallholdings showed decreases in the months of April to June, 2022.

“A total of 10 people in the farming community were killed during this period, this is four fewer murder cases reported to the SAPS compared to the same period last year,” the minister told delegates.

In addition to this, he also indicated that cases of stock theft reported a 4.5% decrease between April and June 2022, with the Western Cape and KZN recording the highest decreases of stock theft by 23.3% and 13.7% respectively.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but I am confident that if we keep up the collaborative work, we can turn the tide against crimes targeting rural communities,” Cele said.

The minister called on emerging farmers to co-operate with each other and the police, instead of sabotaging one another, warning that criminals were organised and this was the reason they seemed to have the upper-hand.

“We have a lot of internal quarrels among emerging farmers which end in bloodshed and this is something that you need to address among yourselves,” said Cele.

According to the minister, the livestock theft network was thriving because they had established a loyal and solid customer base and were working together.

Cele applauded the association for its stance of advancing the participation of African farmers in the agricultural sector.

Afasa president Jabulani Mthembu told The Mercury that emerging farmers did not have the financial resources to get top-of-the-range security for their properties, and this made them prone to attacks.

“When you look at our white counterparts you will see that they have the latest technology that detects when there are intruders and are then able to swiftly respond to the danger, that is not the case with us owing to the lack of financial muscle,” said Mthembu.

He acknowledged that in some instances emerging farmers were guilty of fighting with one another.

“We must really be honest with ourselves and ask some tough questions if we are to overcome the problems that we face as emerging farmers,” said Mthembu.

He said while they were pleading with the minister for help, it was equally important to show initiative on their part.

“The fact of the matter is that the police officers will never be enough to cover the length and breadth of the farming community, so we need to develop a mechanism that will enable us to protect each other while waiting for reinforcements from the police and this must be within the premise of the law,” Mthembu said.