'Crime is on the rise, but we can't defend lawlessness': Agri SA on recent protests

09 October 2020 - 17:17
Agri SA on Friday condemned violent protests in the Free State.
Agri SA on Friday condemned violent protests in the Free State.
Image: SAPS

The government is not doing enough to contain the increasing attacks which sometimes lead to murder in rural communities and on farms, Agri SA said on Friday.

The attacks and crime then threaten stability in communities, which leads to violence.

“It threatens rural stability, discourages investment, and has a direct negative effect on economic growth. Rural crime also has an impact on agricultural and rural communities, resulting in trauma and loss of innocent lives,” said Agri SA president Pierre Vercueil.

“These crimes are becoming a shocking reality and give rise to strong emotional responses. Our leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to calm these emotions, resulting in lawlessness, which Agri SA cannot defend.”

The group expressed the sentiments after violent scenes flared up in Senekal in the Free State this week.

A 51-year-old man accused of malicious damage to property, attempted murder, terrorism and public violence following a fiery protest on October 6 2020 appeared in the Senekal magistrate's court. The accused, who cannot be named until judgment is given on his bail application, has indicated that he will plead not guilty to all charges.

A large group of people — mostly farmers — held a protest to demand justice for the murder of farm manager Brendin Horner.

They demanded that two men who appeared in court in connection with his death be handed over to them. But this did not happen and violence erupted.

Court property was vandalised and a police van overturned and set alight.

Vercueil condemned the unlawful actions.

“I wish to warn our members to deal with all protests within the laws of our country and to refrain from acting in a lawless manner,” he said.

The protest was also widely discussed on social media, with some people sharing incorrect information.

“I call on members of the public to refrain from posting such messages which could lead to further emotional responses and do not contribute to the legal process currently under way,” said Vercueil.

He said the organisation was committed to the implementation of the Revised National Rural Safety Strategy. The strategy was developed to curb farm attacks and create a safer environment for agricultural production.  

“In our discussions with the police earlier this week, special emphasis was placed on the implementation of the strategy, an improved reservist system and the creation of security control centres throughout the country in an attempt to improve farm safety,” said Tommie Esterhuyse, chair of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Rural Safety.

“As an organisation we are committed to co-operation with the police and government to curb farm attacks, murder and rural crime.”

The organisation added that lawlessness, application of double standards and inflammatory political statements impacted negatively on society and called on the government to take action.  

“While it is our constitutional right to be protected, we call on the police and the government to respond with absolute conviction and not to waive its responsibility to maintain law and order,” added Vercueil.

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