Brutal crime in rural areas of South Africa

Joblessness, hopelessness and poverty are placing unbearable criminal pressure on small platteland towns, far flung farming communities and communal areas.

The violent and brutal nature of crime in rural areas highlights the urgent need for a new approach to rural safety due to the vacuum that was left by the phasing out of the commando system.

Rural areas are already reeling from unprecedented urbanisation and joblessness due to economic stagnation and this wave of crime is the final assault.

These crimes appear not to be a racial issue. On Saturday evening Ugie school principal Chris Gouws was brutally attacked and his teacher-wife, Helena brutally murdered.

On Sunday night ex-ANC-MP David Dlali was murdered on his farm in Cedarville; in Etholeni Village in the former Transkei 20 people have been murdered since 2008. Not to mention how many farmers and farm workers have been killed in the past 17 years.

The Government and the SAPS have been holding talk shops on plans such as the Rural Safety Strategy, which was launched in Bethlehem a year ago and is still to be implemented. It is imperative that any such strategies are rolled out as a matter of extreme urgency.

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While the after-incident reaction by the police was commendable in the case of the Gouws attack, the response by the SAPS during the incident was lamentably pathetic.

Mrs Gouws phoned the police, who did not respond nor was there any response when she pressed their panic button. Athol Trollip, the DA Shadow Minister for Rural Development said “I was informed that the police could not respond because they did not have a vehicle available. It is clear from this incident that crime prevention is the Achilles heel of the SAPS and until this is addressed the above said communities will continue to attend the funeral services of their most important trusted and respected citizens”.

The Gouws couple, who over the years both taught hundreds of Ugie’s children, were highly regarded, highly respected people for the education they gave black and white in the community. That this is how they have been repaid for their community service is an indictment on our society.

The Democratic Alliance proposes a new approach to protect all rural communities. This plan includes:

o Measures to strengthen the SAPS area crime combating units and sector policing systems in rural areas;
o The creation of a SAPS Rural Intelligence Centre;
o The establishment of a new specialised Border and Rural Safety Division within the SAPS;
o Developing the post of Divisional Commissioner of Border and rural Safety to coordinate these new structures.

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