The dream of a country free from fear

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Police, Zakhele Mbhele MP, during the debate on farm murders.
Section 205(3) of our constitution states that “the objects of the police service are to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law”. On all of these points, the SAPS is struggling and failing when it comes to crime in rural communities and the safety of farm-dwellers.
This is not because we don’t know what to do to improve safety and security in these communities; rather it is because the police service lacks the right leadership, both political and managerial, to address the problem. The SAPS is the key state institution for ensuring that all people live in safety, free from crime and violence, but is failing in fulfilling that duty due to poor leadership and skewed priorities that undermine the fight against crime on the ground.
The 2016 White Paper on Policing outlines that the police service must be rooted in a community-centred approach, a key demonstration of which is to be responsive to the vulnerabilities and policing needs of local communities. To quote the White Paper: “At local level the SAPS must be equipped to respond to the risks, vulnerabilities and policing needs of the disparate communities it serves.”
This echoes the DA’s longstanding call for the localisation of policing through greater autonomy for police stations. Because crime threats vary drastically from community to community, the SAPS approach of a centralised crime-fighting strategy often undermines the ability of police stations to respond to the very specific needs of their communities.
In this regard, there are multiple instances of SAPS failure to be responsive, both structurally and operationally, to the local policing needs of rural communities. During a visit last month to the town of Belfast in Mpumalanga with my colleague, Honourable Steyn, following another farm attack, we heard from the local councillor about numerous examples of how the SAPS is hopelessly handicapped to do its job:
• In a context where one ward can sometimes be as large as encompassing three towns, one police station has to cover a geographically massive policing precinct, involving long travelling distances, and usually covering multiple settlements.
• Outside of roads between and within towns, most vehicular travel has to be on gravel roads and sometimes on no roads at all. This terrain requires tougher, more agile police vehicles that can take hard knocks and won’t be rendered useless after it rains because they get stuck in mud too easily.
• The under-staffing and inadequate number of police vehicles means that when a suspect in custody has to be transported to another town for a court appearance, normal sector policing operations are deprived of cars and officers for visible patrolling and rapid response.
The SAPS is also missing a huge opportunity in the fight against farm attacks and other rural crimes when it comes to police reservists. The White Paper on Policing is clear that “the effective use of reservists contributes to strengthening policing at station level and the implementation of crime prevention initiatives.”
Currently, the reservist corps has shrunk, is poorly managed and almost impossible to get into due to inexplicably stringent eligibility criteria in the revised regulations. A larger SAPS Reservist Corps would act as a force multiplier to get more boots on the ground for visible patrolling and rapid response, plugging the gaps and helping to spread the workload.
There is no need for the situation to be this bad. This is what the DA would do to improve the safety and security of rural communities and reduce farm attacks:
Give greater budgetary freedom: Often station commanders are prevented from adapting resource allocation according to their specific needs because of centralised bureaucratic processes. The DA would give more discretionary management authority for these decisions to be localised so that stations could deal with problems more effectively – for example, given that policing precincts usually cover a large area, a station commander would be free to ensure the operation of a larger number and spread of satellite police stations.
Allow for local sourcing of equipment: Under a DA government, police stations would be allowed to procure equipment and services directly from approved suppliers based on station needs. This means that they would be sure, for example, to get the right kind of vehicles for their context, instead of being subject to decisions from higher up in the hierarchy that are ill-suited for their needs.
It also means that vehicles would not languish at a centralised SAPS Garage for weeks or months on end for repairs and maintenance while vulnerable communities are poorly protected by an under-resourced and under-equipped police service. They could get them attended to at a local mechanic within a shorter turnaround time.
Boost operational personnel numbers with a strong reservist corps: The DA would ensure rigorous vetting and training, coupled with strong accountability, to ensure that volunteer reservists’ behaviour and conduct is in line with the ethos and expectations of permanent SAPS members.
The DA stands ready to lead a national government that will fix the police service and ensure safety and security for all, particularly rural and farming communities. In order for us, as a nation, to harness the full potential of our people, we need safe homes and safe streets. As the ANC is increasingly paralysed by corruption, cronyism and poor leadership, the DA is becoming the hope of more and more citizens to realise the dream of a country free from fear.

Why does the government turn a blind eye to farm murders?

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Anette Steyn MP, during the debate on farm murders.
We are today participating in a debate to discuss murder. Murder is the unlawful and intentional killing of another human being! South Africa has a shocking murder rate. During 2015/16, 18 673 murders were recorded, it is an average of 51.2 murders per day. We have become so accustomed to this that we don’t even blink an eye anymore when someone is murdered.
Voorsitter, plaasmoorde le my na aan die hart. Ek is ‘n gebore plaasmeisie en weet hoe dit voel om by die plaashek in te ry en te wonder of daar dalk onwelkome gaste op my wag. Ek weet hoe dit voel om in die nag wakker te word as ek vreemde geluide hoor en om dan stil in die donker op te staan en versigtig deur die huis te beweeg om seker te maak dat alles buite nog reg is. Ek vrees elke dag dat iemand na aan my en waarvoor ek lief is op ‘n plaas vermoor kan word.
Wat ek nie weet nie, is hoe dit voel om te hoor dat een van jou geliefdes of werkers in ‘n plaasmoord gesterf het. Terwyl moord in ons land buite beheer is, kan niemand hier vandag se dat hul nie bewus is van die gruwelmoorde wat op Suid Afrikaanse plase plaasvind nie.
Chairperson, we may disagree with the reasons for these murders, some may say it is because farmers mistreat their workers or because “they stole our land” but we have to agree that the torture of any person by another is inhumane and barbaric. This year alone we have seen more than 70 attacks resulting in at least 20 murders.
Let me tell you about three of these attacks:
• On 13 January this year, 69 year old Mrs Kidson was killed while recovering from a hip operation and sitting in a wheelchair. Mrs Kidson was repeatedly stabbed with a sharp object and then her throat was slit. Her husband was also found with his throat slit.
• Op 22 Februarie het Sue Howarth na twee dae in die intensiewesorg eenheid die stryd gewonne gegee. Sue het ‘n gruweldood gesterf, haar liggaam was vol meswonde, haar borste was gebrand en haar oe was toegeswel. Net om seker te maak dat sy wel doodgaan het die aanvallers ‘n swartsak in haar keel gedruk en haar toe ook nog in die kop geskiet.
• This past weekend the 62 year old Nicci Simpson was tied to a chair and tortured with an electrical drill, drilling holes in her feet, legs and knees. Her ribs were broken and she was stabbed multiple times. Luckily she survived this horrific attack.
How is it possible that even one person could get burned with hot water, an iron, dripping plastic, a blow torch, slaughtered like an animal and no-one says a word?
Why are we quiet when it comes to crimes affecting farming and rural communities, could I assume that we are quiet because these victims are farmers?
Hierdie aanvalle is nie slegs teen boere nie, plaaswerkers word ook hierdeur geraak. Inligting versamel deur Vrystaat Landbou wys dat daar reeds 12 aanvalle hierdie jaar in die Vrystaat plaasgevind het, in 7 gevalle was dit teen plaaswerkers gerig. Op Saterdag 11 Maart is twee werkers naby Kroonstad deur 10 rowers aangeval en aangerand.
Crime and violence is affecting and is dehumanising all people in farming and rural communities, irrespective of their race.
Why then does the government turn a blind eye to this? Why does the government refuse to take decisive action to protect its farming and rural communities?
Instead, what we have seen is political leaders using rhetoric that only serves to incite hate and more violence. The president sings “bring back my machine gun” while people are murdered by gangs using machine guns. Others tell their followers to invade land illegally, while singing “one settler, one bullet”.
We cannot allow this to spiral into racial hatred and for us to divide our people along racial lines. We have to stand up and condemn all murders. It cannot be allowed that a person is tortured over two days and no one says a word. It cannot be allowed for a person to shoot someone and then say, “I thought it was a monkey”.
We must take collective responsibility for our divided country by ensuring that all our citizens feel safe and secure.
Ek het die afgelope maand na Mpumalanga, KZN, Gauteng en die Vrystaat gereis om met boere oor landelike veiligheid te praat. Die Demokratiese Alliansie stel die volgende voor:
• Farm attacks must be classified as priority crime in order for more resources to be allocated to Rural Safety Units, currently SAPS is under-resourced and the rural safety Strategy is not properly implemented.
• It is important for attacks to be classified as a separate category of crime for statistical purposes going forward. This classification must include farmers, farmworkers and farm dwellers. It must be linked to specific research into safety and security in order to establish whether murder and attacks on farms are more violent in nature and what the reasons is for this.
• Crime intelligence must be involved in order to see if a link exists between farm attacks where criminals are looking for weapons and other syndicate related crimes in South Africa. Farm attacks are well planned and executed and cannot be purely seen as normal crime anymore.
• The reservist programme in rural areas must be properly implemented with a concerted effort to recruit and train farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers. The current requirements to become reservists is seen as a stumbling block.
• Trauma support must be offered to victims and their families in order to deal with this horrific reality.
Chairperson, this is a fundamental human rights issue and people living on farms must be treated equally in this regard. The ANC should not show less care to a particular group of people based on race.
Condemnation of attacks should come from government and stereotyping of farmers must stop.
The Democratic Alliance would like to offer its condolences to all people who have lost their lives in our violent South Africa.