The killing of a prominent landowner on his own property this weekend sent shockwaves through South Africa, causing an international stir as well. Stefan Smit, who had told the New York Times he feared for his life during a land grab dispute in March, was murdered in Stellenbosch by a gang of armed men during a farm attack.
It sparked widespread condemnation, but those frustrations were also directed at President Ramaphosa. Cyril has been chastised for failing to live up to his promises about land and security in the region, following a visit he made to Stellenbosch in April. However, the Western Cape government are stepping up their efforts to limit farm attacks.
Stellenbosch murder prompts response to farm attacks
Ivan Meyer is the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture. He called a joint press briefing on Monday, meeting with local businesses and other ministers of the DA-run administration. Meyer vowed to “defend the rural economy from criminals”, and listed his demands to improve safety for isolated farming communities. They include:
- Creating specialised SAPS rural safety units and rural intelligence centres.
- Ensuring the NPA prioritise “serious cases of criminality.
- Engaging local business shareholders – including AgriSA – on how farmers can receive greater protection.
- Petitioning against bail for those suspected of committing farm attacks.
- Establishing a Rural Safety Priority Inter-Ministerial Committee by July 2019.
- Placing rural safety at the top of the agenda of all future Provincial Joints Safety Meetings.
Government intends to ensure farmer safety
During the briefing, government officials also resolved to keep watching briefs of violent rural crimes going forward. The provincial Minister for Community Safety, Albert Fritz, also extended his condolences to the Smit family in Stellenbosch. He promised to “change the narrative” on farm attacks to keep landowners safe.
“I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the Smit family on their loss. We cannot tolerate attacks on our farmers, agricultural workers and communities. Our farms are the breadbaskets and provide a livelihood to the many surrounding it.”
“As a society, we need to change the narrative on safety at the macro level to ensure community buy-in. We cannot rely on SAPS and government alone. I will further be arranging a conference with various municipalities to establish a network of safety for our rural communities.”
Western Cape Minister Albert Fritz
It’s estimated that Agriculture makes up for more than 10% of the Western Cape’s GDP. Almost half of all South African agricultural exports come from the province as well, and the DA says they’ll pull out all the stops to preserve the well-being of farming businesses and the people who run them.