Cape Town - A brutal assault on a mentally disabled young man, allegedly by minors, has sparked an outcry from rural farming residents, pleading for assistance with poverty and crime.
Brandon Wewers, 22, was assaulted two weeks ago after he was on his way to pick grapes from a nearby farm in Vanrhynsdorp.
It is alleged that Wewers was stopped by two minors who were also on their way to pick grapes and viciously assaulted.
He was stabbed in the head, on the chin and leg. Wewers was also undressed and left for dead in just his underwear.
He regained consciousness later in the evening and walked home where he informed his parents about what had happened.
He was hospitalised and discharged a few days later.
According to Wewers's elder sister, Elsabe Jones, they returned home and tried to report the case to the police but were told by an officer that they did not need to be at the station because the officers had already collected the case at the hospital.
Billy Claasen, from the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation, said police regularly neglect rural communities.
Claasen, who offered to assist the family personally, said this was why a lot of farming communities felt as if they were the forgotten community of the province.
“This is something that happens regularly – farm people get assaulted, then they will go to the police station, where they get turned away.
“These are concerning issues that do not get the proper attention they deserve.
“What makes things worse is that this is a young man who is mentally disabled who was assaulted. The perpetrators need to face the law, even if it's minors; they need to learn about consequences,” Claasen said.
He said nobody should ever feel as if they could not walk into a government institution to get help.
“Especially a police station. We have a constitutional right to open a case, but these things happen on our farms, even though there are resources in the dorp. When things happen on the farms, they have this tendency to be reluctant when it comes to help,” he said.
“They shouldn't even pull up their socks – they should put on a new pair so that they can render the proper service,” he said.
Colleen Arnolds, the development facilitator at Surplus People Project, who has serviced farming communities for more than 40 years, agreed and believed that the type of treatment, from not only police but every government institution, made residents feel rejected.
“In November, I even dealt with a case where an officer didn't want to help the complainant because she did not understand Afrikaans.
Arnolds believed that the government should do more to educate farmworkers.
Western Cape MEC for Police Oversight and Community Safety Reagen Allen said on various occasions they had heard the cries of rural communities throughout the Western Cape.
“We have and will continue to visit various police stations across the province as we want to ensure that through our oversight, it leads to better and improved service delivery.
“I urge residents to report any and all criminal matters at their local stations. Should there be any dissatisfaction, they should immediately inform the Western Cape Police Ombudsman so that their matter can be investigated. We are the only province with a police ombudsman, whose role is to investigate any shortcomings in how communities are serviced by SAPS,” he said.
“The unfortunate reality is that SAPS remain chronically under-resourced. Vanrhynsdorp, for instance, currently sits with a police to population ratio of 1 officer for every 355 residents. This is ridiculous, given how small the town is.”
Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez advised Wewers and his family to contact their offices.
“DSD provides psycho-social support, like counselling, to any individual who requires it.
“Vanrhynsdorp falls within our NGO-partner, BADISA’s service area (BADISA Matzicare is situated in Voortrekker Road in Vanrhynsdorp, which provides social services).
“The victim can thus contact BADISA for assistance, or he can call the WCDSD’s toll-free number 0800 220 250 or visit the nearest local DSD office, which in this case would be Vredendal, where social workers can assist,” she said.