Letter: Rural safety should be a priority - The Witness

9 September 2020 - Rural and farm safety came to the fore in Saturday’s mass demonstration of farmers and sympathetic South Africans in Newcastle in the wake of the murders of Glen and Vida Rafferty. Concerns about farm murders were echoed by participants in the Move One Million events across the country and abroad.

Rural and farm safety came to the fore in Saturday’s mass demonstration of farmers and sympathetic South Africans in Newcastle in the wake of the murders of Glen and Vida Rafferty. Concerns about farm murders were echoed by participants in the Move One Million events across the country and abroad.

This case, in particular, has garnered considerable attention. It was gratifying to see prominent political leaders – deputy president David Mabuza, police minister Bheki Cele, and Newcastle mayor Dr Nthukuko Mahlaba – speak out on the matter.

But effective, robust action remains to be taken; and the implications of failing to do so stand to be dire indeed.

This is not only a matter of personal safety, as serious as this is. The Transvaal Agricultural Union had recorded some 5 055 attacks on farms and smallholdings, and some 2 078 murders between 1990 and July this year.

Vulnerability to crime is an existential challenge to the viability of the farming economy. Research published by Agri-SA a few years ago suggested that 70% of farms had been hit by some form of crime. This included stock theft, vandalism, poaching and so on. It imposed costs of some R7bn in 2017.

Even where crimes do not intrinsically involve violence, it is a constant worry that they could escalate. Being removed from potential help, this is a psychological threat that farmers and their staff must constantly contend with.

Such an environment discourages existing and potential farmers. More than this, the costs of crime (and of securing oneself against it) raise the costs of farming. It makes it difficult to draw a living from the land.

Securing South Africa’s rural parts and farming communities should be a priority. This is a humanitarian matter, and an economic and developmental one too.

Terence Corrigan

Project Manager, Institute of Race Relations

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