Dealing with farm attacks

Issue 2 2021 Editor's Choice, Integrated Solutions, Security Services & Risk Management, Agriculture (Industry)

The scourge of attacks and subsequent loss of life faced by the farming community across the country continues unabated with seemingly little desire on the part of authorities to stop these crimes. The government saw fit to disband the commando units that were protecting farms at one stage and appointed SAPS to carry out its protection role.

Unfortunately, this has never materialised and the government continues to deny there are organised attacks against farmers. The old commando units were more successful at protecting farmers by organising them and coordinating their protection, their advantage being that they were in the community and on the spot when required. SAPS does not have the manpower or the resources to provide the same support and relies entirely on a reactive effort.

Laurence Palmer is an independent security consultant with some 25 years of experience in the business. Before that, he held a senior command post in the SADF/SANDF where he worked closely with the farming community with the sole objective of keeping farms and farmers safe. He says the main emphasis in those days was prevention, not reacting after the crimes had been committed.

Proactively addressing the issue

When looking at the investigative findings based on 48 farm attacks in KwaZulu-Natal over the course of a year, it was found that the attackers were often trusted and participative members of the farm labour force. Also indicated is that the attacks are not political or race based and appear to be driven more by greed and personal discontent.

A disturbingly large number of farm attacks are committed without the farmers or their families having the time or opportunity to call for help or backup. Palmer believes that in the current situation, the best solution for farmers is to help themselves as a community. The critical factor is to develop a solution that is proactive rather than reactive to stop crime before it occurs.

Starting off, he suggests that distinct districts be defined and an in-depth risk assessment of each area performed. As part of this, it is considered essential to register and capture the personal details of every person that is resident in or works in each selected region. This information should be captured onto a central database that is secure, has offsite backups and permits access by all invested persons.

It is important that all farmers in the region agree to and participate in the project. If some are excluded, the whole project is in jeopardy, states Palmer. It is just as important to communicate with other support services, such as the SA Police Service, Metro Police, civil authorities, established security companies, business, local chiefs and Indunas, union bosses, farm labour, the farmers and their families.

Each member of the project must have the necessary equipment to be able to communicate with each other through an integrated messaging system, as well as with the main database where personnel and other regional information can be obtained.

It’s worth repeating that the full buy-in and cooperation of the farmers in the region are paramount as they are the prime target of criminals and the resultant defence project. The response team will require the authority and support of the farmers if they are to be successful. Some additional requirements include, but are not limited to:

• A rapid mobile reaction unit that can respond to incidents.

• The use of drones to gather information and identify activity.

• All vehicles to be fitted with GPS units.

• Remote alarm and panic buttons that are carried by all vulnerable persons.

• Weapons training: how, when and if to use them.

• First aid trauma training and response.

• Training in the effective and safe handling of cash and wages on the farm or business premises.

This article was extracted from a paper written by Laurence Palmer focusing on how to initiate an effective, proactive defence strategy against farm attacks. For more information contact Laurence Palmer, +27 73 954 4450, [email protected]


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