File photo: African News Agency (ANA)
File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Fresh farm attacks over long weekend spark cries for safety unit

By SE-ANNE RALL Time of article published Apr 23, 2019

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DURBAN - A spate of farm attacks across the country during the long weekend has renewed calls for the reinstatement of a specialised SAPS rural safety unit.

A father was gunned down in front of his family and several people were injured in attacks on various farms.

In Hoopstad in the North West, Janus Powell was shot dead after a group of men, some in police uniform, entered his home. Powell shot one of the assailants before succumbing to his injuries.

In another attack, Mario Coetzee was critically wounded after a group of men attacked him, his children and two older people in his home. Coetzee’s ear was hacked off, while his son was airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery for serious injuries to his face.

AfriForum recorded at least four more incidents, including one in the Western Cape where a 72-year-old woman was raped and stabbed. One of her attackers has been arrested.

The DA’s Patricia Kopane has called for rural safety units to be reinstated. She called for dedicated police officers who would work to serve and protect rural communities. “We need for these officers to be specially trained to work in hotspot areas. We find many times that court cases are often thrown out because of poor investigations,” she said.

KwaZulu-Natal Violence Monitor Mary de Haas said farm attacks had been taking place for decades, however there was no evidence that they were politically motivated. “There is a belief that farmers have guns and this rumour gets around. Farmers are also seen as soft targets, especially if they are older.”

De Haas said there were fewer policing resources in rural areas and roads were often in a bad state. She said another issue was faulty telephones at police stations.

DA spokesperson on police, Dianne Kohler Barnard, said there were 28 known attacks last month where two people were murdered. “We have long called for the reintroduction of specialised units within the SAPS. This would include units to tackle rural safety.”

Last year, the SAPS came under fire for lack of policing in rural areas. In November, National Police Commissioner, Khehla Sitole, appeared before the parliamentary police committee to discuss the SAPS’s implementation of the rural safety plan. At the time, police said they were working on strengthening communication in communities.

SAPS national spokesperson, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, said the SAPS had a rural safety strategy in place.

THE MERCURY 

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