Debate On Farm And Food Security In KZN
BY VZ KaMagwaza-Msibi MPL

   

 

KwaZulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: Thursday, 16 September 2010

 

Honourable Speaker

 

Crime statistics and endless media reports of brutal attacks on farmers and their employees show that our agricultural community, which comprises both established and emerging commercial farmers, is facing threats to its safety and, indeed, its very existence. Yet, the government’s response to these threats has been slow, half-hearted and, ultimately, ineffective. The violence against the farming community has been allowed to continue unabated and the indifference it elicits as a social phenomenon means that individual assaults on farmers and their employees now go virtually unnoticed.

 

I wish to make it clear at the outset that farm attacks are not a matter of race. White farm owners are by no means the only victims of farm robberies, aggravated assaults and murders. Research shows that an increasing number of farm attack victims are black. Whereas farm workers have always suffered as “collateral damage” to farm attacks, growing numbers of emerging farmers who are beneficiaries of land redistribution and other forms of government-sponsored transformation end up as victims of criminal elements that target farmers.

 

Attacks on farmers have been an increasing occurrence since 1994 and by 2000 these attacks peaked at close to 1000 per year countrywide. There has been a general decline since, except in Gauteng, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal which have defied the trend and witnessed increasing levels of attack. The causes are no doubt complex but the failure of government’s rural safety plan has played the pivotal role in the growth of attacks on farmers and their property. This has manifested itself in the disbandment of the old commando system, the strict regulations contained in the new Firearms Control Act as well as the general ineffectiveness of the law enforcement agencies in the fight against crime.

 

Farmers and farm workers continue to be viewed by criminals as soft targets due to the large distances between farms and because many rural residents are often older and therefore more vulnerable. Even though most farm attacks are blatantly motivated by robbery, they are generally carried out in an extremely brutal manner that amounts to senseless violence. Such acts of violence are profoundly inhuman – and un-African. They are manifestations of behaviour that has no place in our new democratic society based on mutual respect and ubuntu.

 

Honourable Speaker, if we are to give substance to the vision of a non-violent society we all share, we need to pursue a new and innovative strategy to ensure the safety of the vulnerable in general and to prevent farm attacks from occurring in the future in particular. And if farm attacks do occur, we need to ensure the swift apprehension of perpetrators.

 

In order to fill the vacuum created by the phasing out of the old commando system, we in the IFP would like to see concrete measures to strengthen the SAPS area crime combating units and a new sector policing system in our rural areas. These structures need to be well coordinated and empowered with a better functioning judicial system to revive the flagging confidence in the ability of our law enforcement agencies to combat crime.

 

But the productivity levels on our farms have not only suffered as a result of the precarious physical existence of our farmers. As a result of government’s confrontational attitude towards commercial agriculture, we have witnessed a massive disinvestment and a steady decline in employment. These developments have resulted in an exodus of producers in the farming sector and our increasingly shaky food security.

 

The periodic threats from the government to abolish the “willing buyer-willing seller” principle and the now shelved Expropriation Bill have greatly contributed to the decline in investor confidence, both local and foreign. Such thinking and language have to stop if we are to confidence and improve production in our agricultural sector.

 

Alongside an improved sense of safety and security among our farmers, we need to clarify our regulatory framework to regulate and enhance investment in the agricultural sector. Such a framework can only be based on the free market system with a clear relationship between hard work and profit. And we also need to reverse the failure of our land reform programmes by ensuring that the new beneficiaries have adequate post settlement financial and other support. We need to identify people with a genuine interest in farming and we need to train them under proper mentorship programmes with former land owners to empower them and ensure smooth skills transfer.

 

There is no short cut to a safer, more productive and sustainable farming sector. The measures that we in the IFP propose to achieve this objective involve hard work and hard choices but we are confident that, in the end, they will bear fruit. 

 

I thank you.

 

Contact: Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, 082 804 7993