The Democratic Alliance (DA) is concerned by the low arrest and conviction rates among the two main categories of crimes affecting rural areas, namely stock theft and farm attacks.

In reply to a question by the DA in the Free State Legislature the MEC for Police, Roads and Transport, Mr William Bulwane, indicated that between 2018 and so far in 2021 there were 13 841 reported cases of stock theft with only 4002 arrests and 605 convictions (see attached reply). This implies an average arrest rate of 29%, and only 15% of those arrested being convicted. During the same time frames 81 farm attacks were reported with 76 arrests and 11 convictions which implies that only 14, 5% of those arrested are so far convicted.

Stock theft is much higher than reported as the low arrest and conviction rates serve as deterrents for the reporting of such crimes. In many instances people who admit to crimes at the scene, submit very different statements when reaching police stations. That creates suspicions that the perpetrators are coached by the SAPS on what to say to avoid prosecution. Victims of such crimes are also subjected to tedious court proceedings and delays without successful convictions, often due to incomplete or poor police dockets. In some instances the victims of stock theft are arrested and charged for alleged assaults while apprehending stock thieves on their properties.

The low numbers of convictions for farm attacks is similarly cause for concern and such cases often take years to reach finalisation. The lack of resources in rural police stations remains a hindrance to the effective implementation of a rural safety strategy and visible policing in rural areas.

Stock theft as well as farm attacks cause billions of rands of annual losses to the agricultural community who are already struggling to survive due to increased input costs, damages caused by poor roads and increased electricity prices coupled with load shedding.

The DA has a comprehensive rural safety strategy that remains the only viable alternative to current failed strategies by the ANC-led government. The DA regards our farmers and their employees, who provide our country’s food security, as national assets who must be protected and nurtured.

As the official opposition in South Africa and in the Free State, the DA will continue to provide alternative strategies and solutions for all crimes committed against our citizens and our economy.

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Dr Roy Jankielsohn

Dr Roy Jankielsohn is the Democratic Alliance Leader of the opposition in the Free State.

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