South African farmers may have taken a crucial decision after incidences of recent increase in farm attacks in some places.
In a week of violent farm attacks that sent shock waves throughout the country, farm residents are fed up with talk and have decided to take control of their own safety.
Reinhard Fourie lives in Stellenbosch and is a member of the local neighbourhood watch.
His family owns a farm in Ceres and while they have not experienced any attacks, Fourie is concerned by the recent escalation in attacks in the province.
Fourie said the neighbourhood watch, Stellenbosch Watch, acted as an auxiliary force to police, local law enforcement, traffic and other security companies.
“Our patrol vehicles visit and patrol farms day and night. Although we have a fleet of vehicles, the rural area is still a vast area to protect.
“Our control room is in contact with almost every other security company control room and the working relationships are great.
“Reaction to farm attacks delivers a number of security companies who respond to the scene and surroundings to secure the scene, assist victims and search for suspects,” said Fourie.
He said patrols were done 24/7 in town and rural areas with armed security officers. Patrols are done at random and have specific checkpoints for each shift.
Incidents were reported over the radios and WhatsApp groups and farm watch groups.
Next month, Stellenbosch Watch will launch another tactical unit and install thermal cameras to protect the town and rural areas.
Last week saw a spate of attacks in the province starting with the killing of Stefan Smit on Louiesenhof Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. On the same night another couple’s house was broken into on a nearby farm.
On Tuesday morning, a woman was attacked in her house on a farm in Klapmuts.
According to AfriForum there have been 16 attacks on Western Cape farms this year alone – representing an increase of more than double compared to the same period last year.
Meetings were held this week with community safety MEC Albert Fritz and agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer, where they resolved to create a specialised police rural safety unit and rural intelligence centres and ensure the National Prosecuting Authority prioritised the crimes.
They engaged with local businesses on how farmers could receive greater protection and establish a rural safety priority inter-ministerial committee by next month.
According to a security officer who chose to remain anonymous and works in the Paarl and Wellington areas, the attacks have become more brazen.
“They are getting more ruthless by the day, I’ve seen cases where old people were getting tortured for days before being killed, people burned with irons, people watching their daughters get raped.”
Stellenbosch Community Police Forum spokesperson Monwa Luxande said the community was also concerned about the potential economic impact of farm attacks.