Despite two months having passed since an important joint meeting between KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN) Agriculture and Rural Development and Community Safety portfolio committees, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the province is no closer to ensuring the safety of farmers, farm workers and rural communities.
The meeting, which took place on 11 August, saw a number of important recommendations and proposals put forward for consideration. Notably, SAPS supported the proposals to declare farm murders a hate crime and also backed proposals for the establishment of an inter-ministerial team to report to KZN’s Premier, while also acknowledging that these crimes have a negative impact on our province’s economy and on food security.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KZN is appalled by the lack of political will demonstrated by KZN’s Agriculture and Rural Development portfolio committee when it comes to tackling the issue of farm and rural safety in our province.
There is no reasonable explanation for the portfolio committee not to have passed the recommendations to advance the fight against crimes in farming and rural communities, particularly under the current socio-political conditions. The urgency of this matter is further justified by the DA’s recent findings of two decades of exceptionally low arrest and conviction rates in farm attacks and the murder of both farmers and farm workers in our province.
Equally alarming are the threats of disciplinary action I received from ANC members on the portfolio committee after I shared SAPS’s recommendations on hate crimes – simply because they are not in line with their own denialist approach. The truth is that there is a complete lack of political will within certain circles of the ANC to take this issue seriously. The DA will not stand back in the face of such intimidation and I will be communicating with the portfolio committee Chairperson to demand that rural safety be prioritised and that a follow up meeting be held as a matter of urgency.
Regrettably, South Africans in many communities feel that they are being pushed to resort to violence in order for their pleas to be heard. We have seen this in countless service delivery protests and in the incident that took place in Senekal in the Free State this past week. This is a clear sign that this ANC-led government has lost control of service delivery and of programmes which are meant to improve the lives of all communities.
For far too long, government has ignored cries from various sectors, agriculture included. It’s uncaring and unresponsive approach has left communities desperate for answers and for action. The question remains, how long will it take for government to act in order to resolve the challenges plaguing the people of KZN, black and white, young and old, rich and poor?
The DA remains committed to fighting for the right of our province’s people to live an environment where they do not have to live in fear for their safety each and every day.