The seriousness of continued attacks against the farming community in South Africa and the urgency of confronting the issue have led previous President Mandela to host a Rural Safety Summit on 10 October 1998 to formulate a comprehensive strategy to deal with the problem. The summit aimed at achieving consensus around a process to deal with the issue of rural crime as well as the strengthening of strategies. This culminated in the development and establishment of the Rural Protection Plan. This Plan has since been replaced by the National Rural Safety Strategy. The strategy aims at amongst others, to involve community participation in combating crime.
One of the resolutions of the aforementioned summit was that organised agriculture amongst others must co-operate where possible and appropriate in mobilising resources to meet identified needs aimed at enhancing rural safety. Shortly after the summit in February 1999, Agri SA established the Agri Securitas Trust Fund.
Aim of the Trust Fund
There are various reasons and circumstances that give rise to farm attacks and rural crime. It poses a multi-layered challenge to combat this problem and so-doing enable rural South Africa to perform to its full potential. The aim of the Trust Fund is to contribute towards rural safety and remains committed to promoting a safe and prosperous agricultural industry in South Africa by means of a positive attitude and constructive action. This aim supports the objective of the rural Safety Strategy i.e. community involvement and participation.
The Trust Fund provides financial resources to farming communities to enable them to improve their own safety as well as that of other communities living in the area. An important aspect when considering the funding of projects is the co-operation that exists between local communities and the South African Police Service. All projects that are supported must be driven within the statutory and institutional framework. Since the Trust Fund does not have executive capacity, it carries its mandate out via other organisations such as farmer associations who are members of provincial organisations affiliated to Agri SA.
The trust deed makes provision for a Board of Trustees, which must consist of no more than 12 members. As a general guideline when appointing trustees, the Board adheres to the principle that the trustee’s current professional status should be taken into account.
Members of the current Board of Trustees are:
• Japie Grobler (Chairman)
• Kiewiet Ferreira (Vice-chair)
• Willie Fourie
• John Williams
• Patrick Lekota
• Marina Muller
• Tharina Rossel
• Hans van der Merwe
• Omri van Zyl
The Trust Fund is registered with the Master of the High Court, Trust number 6461/01
• Farmers’ manual on criminal justice issues
Agri SA has learned of several cases in the past where farmers were unlawfully arrested without sound investigative work having been done and because of false statements. To make farmers aware of their rights and to provide broad guidelines as to how they should act in the event of an arrest, the Trust Fund made funds available to compile a manual that was distributed to farmers via the Agri distribution network
• Evaluation of the Rural Protection Plan
The Rural Protection Plan was developed to encourage all role-players to work together and become involved in a co-ordinated manner in communal planning, actions and the monitoring of crime in rural areas. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) conducted research to determine the effectiveness of the Rural Protection Plan and to gain insight into the nature of crime on farms and smallholdings.
• Profile study of convicted criminals
Technikon RSA conducted an inquiry in order to compile a profile of a criminal – who had already been sentenced – involved in farm attacks. To this end, interviews were held with 48 convicted criminals in prison. They were asked why they had become involved in the attacks and why victimshad been murdered with such violence after the criminal had already succeeded in his objective. The study was completed in 2001.
• Action Stop Farm Attacks
A countrywide petition campaign was launched on 31 May 2000, calling on the government to take effective action to curb farm attacks. The ultimate objective of the campaign was the total eradication of farm attacks, with the emphasis on mobilising the public of South Africa and to generate maximum pressure locally and abroad so that the government would commit to a more effective effort and make the resources available to prevent farm attacks. A further important objective was to ensure that the rural community, and especially farm dwellers were more prepared for such attacks.
• Inquiry into the criminal justice system
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS), at the request of Agri SA, conducted an investigation for the organisation’s National Law and Order Committee to identify shortcomings in the criminal justice system and to ascertain why existing sentences do not serve as a deterrent for farm attackers. The purpose of this was also to analyse crime trends and demographic information so that future trouble spots could be identified and proactive steps taken. Part of the investigation also focused on the possibility of the death penalty for certain violent crimes.
• SAPS Security Brochure
As part of the NOCOC’s communication strategy on the Rural Protection Plan and to promote rural safety, the SAPS has compiled a security brochure that will be distributed to farmers countrywide. The brochures will contain core aspects of rural safety and will be available in English, Afrikaans and various black languages.
Training in battle indications
Lukas Swart was appointed by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to present training seminars countrywide aimed at equipping the farming community with relevant information to anticipate and deal with farm attacks. Battle indications are the guidelines that criminals follow in order to carry out their tasks. In all farm attacks these indications were visible beforehand. This means that, if one had had this information at that time, many farm attacks could have been prevented. The Trust Fund made a financial contribution towards the training seminars, which ensure that the information that becomes available can prevent many farm attacks.
• Obelisk to commemorate farmers who were murdered during farm attacks
An obelisk to commemorate farmers and their family members who were murdered during farm attacks was erected on the site of Grain SA’s harvest farm, outside Bothaville. The obelisk consists of nine columns, each depicting one of the nine provinces of South Africa. The names of the deceased in the nine provinces appear on the relevant column. This obelisk is the only one of its kind and serves as a unique way of paying tribute to these farmers and their family members. The Trust Fund made a contribution to the bronze statue at the obelisk.
• Financing of organised agriculture’s security committees
The unacceptable high levels of farm attacks necessitates the input and participation of all representatives from the nine provinces to be able to offer effective protection countrywide. The co-operation of provincial representatives are also vital to implement and manage the Rural Protection Plan, of which Agri SA forms part. All role-players within the broader Agri SA family must plan together and co-ordinate in order to make a difference to the security situation on farms. To achieve this objective, the Trust Fund made a contribution to Agri SA’s national as well as nine provincial security committees to enable them to effectively perform their functions and role within the Rural Protection Plan.
• Trauma Workshops
Reformanda Counselling Service in Potchefstroom developed a special trauma assistance programme for victims of farm attacks. The service was specifically introduced to focus on traumatised victims of farm attacks and to assist them so that they could resume their place in society. In addition, the programme focuses on equipping people with the necessary skills – through relevant training courses – to assist fellow-community members with trauma-related counselling. These courses are also available to church leaders, social workers and members of the SAPS who are often the first to deal with traumatised victims after an incident. It is important to know who to deal with traumatised victims from the start. The Trust Fund has made a contribution to the counselling service in support of its continued counselling service at the University.