The recent announcement of the police's rural safety plan and the statements made by Ms Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, about the problems affecting farmers, like rural safety, are encouraging but things will not change as long as these words do not lead to actions.
The FF Plus welcomes various aspects of the rural safety plan, like greater inclusivity in planning and actions as well as the establishment of rapid response units.
The report itself, however, points out why previous plans of a similar nature failed and this new plan is also doomed to fail if the lessons from the past are not taken to heart.
According to the report, the 2011/2012 – 2017/2018 plan was not fully implemented countrywide due to various reasons. It is encouraging that the report openly acknowledges the fact that interdepartmental problems prevented the police from executing the plan properly.
The plan was furthermore hampered by inadequate and unsustainable human and logistical resources in rural police districts and a lack of recognising the importance of infrastructure, like roads. The abovementioned comes down to an admission that the plan not well thought through nor practically feasible.
The FF Plus wants to point out to the Minister of Police, Bheki Celi, that the very same problems, like a lack of money and manpower, are still present. The Minister himself indicated that at present, the police force is understaffed with approximately 60 000 police officers.
The report also makes mention of the negative impact of ordinary crimes, like livestock theft, burglaries and theft, on farmers and how difficult policing is due to the abovementioned problems.
Acknowledging past mistakes, recognising that rural safety, and protecting the rural community in particular, should be a priority for the police and realising that special planning and cooperation are needed to ensure the safety of the community make for a good starting point.
South African farmers' battle with the elements, particularly the current severe drought, is already leaving them fighting just to stay alive. They cannot be expected to also fight against crime as well.
The FF Plus has always been committed to improving the fate of farmers in South Africa and will continue to point out to the government its duty and responsibility to earnestly set about ensuring rural safety in the interest of everyone in the country.
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