Rural Safety Plan: SAPS, African Farmers Association, SA Human Rights Commission briefings

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Police

26 August 2016
Chairperson: Mr F Beukman (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The South African Police Service (SAPS) spoke about the Rural Safety Strategy implementation, what actions had been undertaken in support of the strategy, the development and implementation of the rural safety plan, defining acts of violence on farms and smallholdings, identified good practices, crime prevention actions in rural areas and planned interventions. The Rural Safety Strategy was, in 2010, approved for implementation between 2011 and 2015. In 2014, there were the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings and recommendations to ensure safety and in 2016 there was a proposal to host a rural safety summit/roundtable which was approved by the Acting National Commissioner. Rural safety, including incidents of violence on farms and smallholdings, was prioritised by the Acting National Commissioner.

The implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy was based on four pillars: enhanced service delivery, integrated approach, community safety awareness and rural development. The Strategy focus areas and implementation criteria were discussed. The status of implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy per province showed that out of a total of 1140 police stations in the country, 479 police stations were based in rural areas and 405 in a rural/urban mix. Of these, 794 had total implementation, 81 partial and 9 had nil implementation. The non-performing police stations were identified. Police response to crimes in rural areas was outlined. Proactive  actions at police stations were described as were the measures undertaken to sustain implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy.

SAPS reported that some acts of violence on farms and smallholdings were defined or redefined, such as:
“farm attack” was amended to incidents of violence on farms and smallholdings. It was acknowledged that attacks are not specifically directed against the residents of a farm but that it was mostly crime in general.
"Acts of violence against person(s) on farm and small holdings" referred to acts aimed at person or persons residing on, working on or visiting farms and small holdings, whether with the intent to murder, rape, rob or inflict bodily harm. In addition, all acts of violence against the infrastructure and property in the rural community aimed at disrupting legal farming activities as a commercial concern, whether the motive or motives are related to ideology, land disputes, land issues, revenge, grievances, racist concerns or intimidation are included. Cases related to domestic violence or liquor abuse, or resulting from common place social interaction between people are excluded from the definition. All acts of violence against person(s) on farm and small holdings must be report to the Visible Policing division within 24 hours. Identified hot spots were noted as were annual comparisons for incidents / murders and a provinicial breakdown.

SAPS acknowledged that it was not where it wanted to be, but it was doing its best to implement the Rural Safety Strategy in its totality. It had been provided with infrastructure in the rural areas partnering with traditional authorities and the Post Office to establish service points. However, it was difficult to have police officers at these post offices. The SAPS was not able to use all infrastructure offered to it. The SAPS was not encountering major issues of safety in the areas where there were traditional leaders. Serious security issues were encountered in non-traditional leader areas and most of the time, farmers were involved because access to farms was still a challenge.

Commissioner Danny Titus of the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) focused on its National Investigative Hearing into Safety Security Challenges in Farming Communities in 2014, the prevention of torture, policing and human rights. SAHRC had hosted two previous hearings into human rights in farming communities in 2003 and 2008. The 2014 hearing focussed on the challenges of safety and security in farming communities. The public hearings allowed the SAHRC to deal with multiple complaints in one setting and to identify and understand the challenges that inhibit the realisation of rights. A number of challenges were identified and recommendations were drawn (see report). In 2015 the report on the hearings was launched and it was presented at a roundtable discussion with the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and other stakeholders dealing with farm killings and murders. The killings were clearly a matter of human rights and the rights of farmers, farm workers and the farming community in general. When one observes the brutality of the killings, it is clear that there is no respect for life, and that perpetrators operate with impunity. The criminal justice system did not appear to provide a deterrent.

The SAHRC looked forward to working with the new National Commissioner and his Back to Basics Programme and it would like to encourage political leadership to come out more on the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights. The police had agreed to cooperate with the SAHRC in a number of areas. However the status of the MOU was that it had come to a halt.

The SAHRC reminded Members that South Africa had signed and ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). It had signed, but was yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the CAT. This would set up the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). South Africa had a shameful history of gross human rights abuses including torture of many of its citizens and inhabitants. Since 1994, South Africa was committed to the preventing and combating of torture of persons by bringing persons who carry out acts of torture to justice as required by international law. As of yet, no public official had been charged with torture, only assault. On the other hand, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) 2014/15 Report indicated 244 deaths in police custody, 145 cases of torture, 34 cases of rape and 3 711 cases of assault by police officers. Further, the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) 2014/15 Annual Report indicated that 46 unnatural deaths took place in correctional centres, 461 complaints on the use of force were lodged and 263 complaints on the use of mechanical restraints were reported. Reports on torture continued to be produced by the Centre for the Study on Violence and Reconciliation and some of the reports were handed over to the SAPS National Commissioner. Commissioner Titus concluded by recommending that Parliament ratify the Optional Protocol to the CAT, incorporate redress for victims of torture in the Prevention of Torture Act, redefine the attitudes of the Police and Correctional Services, make available more funds for IPID and JICS and ensure JICS was an independent entity.

The African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) briefing on the Rural Safety Strategy had a particular reference to common rural crime on farms. These included crimes against a person, crimes against property and crime detected by police action. The AFASA reported that crimes against a person was not very common within the farming communities, except in cases where the farm owner had disputes with an employee and this sometimes led to murder case. Farmers using cash transactions were more vulnerable in this type of crime, as it was linked to robbery. Crimes against property included stock theft, illegal hunting with dogs or poaching, vandalising of farm infrastructure, stealing scrap metal for illegal trade and petty farm crimes. Due to limited time, AFASA skipped the section on crime statistics saying it was concerned with the increase in number of livestock stolen. It provided statistics for the value and number of cattle, sheep and goats stolen and recovered over the past eight years, as well as a provincial breakdown.

AFASA outlined factors to combat rural crime, including providing correct crime statistics, proper identification and screening of members of police forums, provide adequate resources to police, regular border and farm patrols, neighbourhood watch with an effective communication system, the law is very tight on police officers and very lenient on criminals and the competence of police officers had dropped significantly over years.

Members sought clarity from SAPS on whether it felt it was on the right track. They felt that the SAHRC’s presentation was more academic as it was not talking to problems faced by farm-workers. It focussed on the police, instead of victims. Members also felt that the assertions of AFASA were merely perceptions without proof. They said AFASA’s presentation was misleading the Committee.

Members sought clarity on the recruitment of reservists, patrols, arrests of white farmers who killed their farm-workers, arrests of people who killed albinos for muti, emerging human trafficking of albinos, whether the SAHRC had bite like the Office of Public Protector, why police guilty of torture were not arrested and prosecuted, and why the SAHRC could not assist farm workers to access justice in controversial cases such as being killed by employers. It was agreed that it was essential for SAPS to work together with SAHRC in the development of a human rights curriculum for training police. They asked AFASA whether its presentation was based on facts or perception.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said the National Development Plan (NDP) made a reference to rural safety and there was also a specific recommendation in the National Commissioner’s plan that access to justice and ensuring rural safety should be given more attention. The Rural Safety Plan should be implemented in its totality. The plan was drafted after various consultations. Agri-SA would not be presenting as initially planned. It would be given an opportunity to present its experiences and provide recommendations.

Rural Safety Plan: South African Police Service (SAPS) briefing
SAPS Deputy National Commissioner of Policing, Sehlahle Fannie Masemola, was present as Lieutenant General Nobesuthu Masiye, Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, spoke about the Rural Safety Strategy implementation, what actions had been undertaken in support of the strategy, the development and implementation of the rural safety plan, defining acts of violence on farms and smallholdings, identified good practices, crime prevention actions in rural areas and planned interventions. The Rural Safety Strategy was, in 2010, approved for implementation between 2011 and 2015. In 2014, there were the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings and recommendations to ensure safety and in 2016 there was a proposal to host a rural safety summit/roundtable which was approved by the Acting National Commissioner. Rural safety, including incidents of violence on farms and smallholdings, was prioritised by the Acting National Commissioner.

The implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy was based on four pillars: enhanced service delivery, integrated approach, community safety awareness and rural development. The Strategy focus areas and implementation criteria were discussed. The status of implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy per province showed that out of a total of 1140 police stations in the country, 479 police stations were based in rural areas and 405 in a rural/urban mix. Of these, 794 had total implementation, 81 partial and 9 had nil implementation. The non-performing police stations were identified. Police response to crimes in rural areas was outlined. Proactive  actions at police stations were described as were the measures undertaken to sustain implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy.

The aim of the Rural Safety Plan was to improve safety and security within the total rural environment, to improve relationships with the farming and rural community, to establish a system that would address crime within the rural areas, to improve service delivery within the rural communities and safeguard the entire rural community against crime or any disaster. The main focus areas of the Rural Safety Plan included the following: enhancement of service delivery, an integrated approach, community involvement, and rural development.

Acts of violence on farms and smallholdings were defined or redefined, such as:
“farm attack” was amended to incidents of violence on farms and smallholdings. It was acknowledged that attacks are not specifically directed against the residents of a farm but that it was mostly crime in general.
Acts of violence against person(s) on farm and small holding referred to acts aimed at person or persons residing on, working on or visiting farms and small holdings, whether with the intent to murder, rape, rob or inflict bodily harm. In addition, all acts of violence against the infrastructure and property in the rural community aimed at disrupting legal farming activities as a commercial concern, whether the motive or motives are related to ideology, land disputes, land issues, revenge, grievances, racist concerns or intimidation are included. Cases related to domestic violence or liquor abuse, or resulting from common place social interaction between people are excluded from the definition.

All internal and external stakeholders, including organised agriculture (Agriculture South Africa and Transvaal Agricultural Union) were in agreement with the definition. A consultation session was recently facilitated with all role players to revisit the definition. All incidents of violence against a person(s) on farms and small holdings ought to be reported to the Division of Visible Policing within 24 hours after a crime had been committed. Identified hot spots were noted as were annual comparisons for incidents / murders and a provincial breakdown.

Lt Gen Masemola, acknowledged that SAPS was not where it wanted to be, but it was doing its best to implement the Rural Safety Strategy in its totality. It had been provided with infrastructure in the rural areas partnering with traditional authorities and the Post Office to establish service points. However, it was difficult to have police officers at these post offices. The SAPS was not able to use all infrastructure offered to it. The SAPS was not encountering major issues of safety in the areas where there were traditional leaders. Serious security issues were encountered in non-traditional leader areas and most of the time, farmers were involved because access to farms was still a challenge.

Discussion
Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) sought clarity on visible policing, in particular foot and vehicle patrols. How this could be done when there was a distance from one household to another? Was SAPS satisfied with implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy? Did crime statistics include farm workers who were killed by their employers / farmers?

Mr Z Mbhele (DA) welcomed the presentation and stated that it provided comprehensive detail on the Rural Safety Plan. He sought clarity on number of issues including how sexual offences on farms were dealt with, who was included in force multipliers, whether contextual analysis was done with respect to weekly incident analysis on the landscape of rural areas. How many reservists did SAPS intend to recruit by December 2016?

Ms M Mmola (ANC) sought clarity on reason why assaults against farm workers, perpetrated by white farmers were ignored by a certain police station. She stated that assaults were reported to the police and, instead of arresting perpetrators, police officials told the victims that they should speak to the lawyers of perpetrators. Was this procedurally fair?

Mr J Maake (ANC) sought clarity on what smallholdings meant and on why there was an urban police station in Limpopo.

Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) commented that the report showed that the power relations between farmers and farm workers was not equal, resulting in farm workers being victimised without legal recourse. He sought clarity on what were the push and pull factors that brought a decline in crimes. He stated that albinos were being killed because people in rural areas believed that their body parts could be used as muti. What strategies was SAPS using to deter such killings?

Mr L Mabija (ANC) remarked that the presentation was comprehensive and informative. She sought clarity on what mechanisms SAPS used to ensure that the strategy was implemented as expected.

The Chairperson sought clarity on what the National Commissioner of Police was doing to ensure that the strategy was implemented? Drawing on the National Development Plan, he noted that each farm should have its own safety plan and sought clarity on whether SAPS has established those safety plans? He asked about the deadline for the recruitment of reservists and how many reservists would be recruited.

Response
Lt Gen Masemola responded that patrols were mostly done by vehicles where a car drives from one household to another. They were not encountering problems. SAPS was in progress with the implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy. SAPS cannot say that it was satisfied with the progress. More problematic was that some farm workers were accessible whereas others were not.

Lt Gen Masemola acknowledged that some farm workers were killed because SAPS could not control all farms. Although the police conducted its patrols regularly, still some farm workers especially illegal foreign nationals who were employed could be killed. Mostly, foreign nationals became known about  when there were salary disputes. If there was a killing, SAPS opened an investigation before arrest. A person was not merely arrested without proof.

Lt Gen Masemola noted that force multipliers were composed of private security companies, reservists, and other people who attended security meetings. The rural landscape posed a challenge to police operations in various provinces. SAPS tried to have cars that could patrol all these areas. SAPS was receiving submissions requesting it to establish more police stations. A smallholding referred to small farms or plots.

Lt Gen Masemola stated that there was a policy that was followed in order to establish a police station or distribute police stations in the country. With regards to inspections of abattoirs, there were various stakeholders that could monitor whether the abattoirs and butcheries were meeting rules and standards. SAPS could see whether the livestock was not stolen.

Lt Gen Masemola noted that there was a request to differentiate murder on a farm from other murders. A murder was a murder whether it took place on a farm or not.

On the question of albinos Lt Gen Masemola responded that SAPS was aware of the killings for muti and raised concern about human trafficking of albinos to be killed elsewhere. Cases had been opened but SAPS was yet to arrest perpetrators. These were taking in place in KwaZulu Natal. There were however various role players who patrolled the rural areas. There were joint workshops scheduled to take place. Only one joint workshop between farmers, farm workers and police had taken place so far. Other workshops were scheduled to take place after a national summit. Reservists should have been recruited by August 2016. Statistics on reservist recruits were not available but could be submitted to the Committee. SAPS was planning to have as many reservists as it could. Recruitment of reservists was difficult because some farmers would not allow their farm workers to work as reservists. SAPS was still engaging with farmers.

Ms Mabija sought clarity on how SAPS ascertained that reports it received were reflections of true experience of what happening on the ground. Worth noting was that reports, sometimes, did not reflect the true picture.

Mr Mbhele expressed concerns about what the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was doing in monitoring compliance with abattoir regulations. He sought clarity on the emergence of albino human trafficking, especially the strategies to fight against this human trafficking.

Ms Molebatsi asked how the police dealt with the theft of livestock.

Mr Mhlongo sought clarity on whether reservists would be outsourced.

On the question of how many recruits would be going to rural police stations, Lt Gen Masemola responded that all rural police stations would benefit, but SAPS would have to supply a breakdown of the figures in writing. The intention of the police was that all rural police stations should implement the Rural Safety Strategy. At butcheries, the Departments of Health and Agriculture conducted the health aspect of meat inspections and the police could do the work of tracing down stolen livestock. On albinos, it was not necessary to have specific unit in the rural areas, rather, SAPS had enough of an intelligence squad that worked there and SAPS could act in accordance with their information.

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) briefing
Dr Danny Titus, SAHRC Commissioner, took the Committee through a presentation focussing on the 2014 SAHRC National Investigative Hearing into Safety Security Challenges in Farming Communities, the prevention of torture and policing and human rights. Section 184 of the Constitution mandated the SAHRC to promote a culture of human rights and this could be done through investigation and reporting on the observance of human rights.

Dr Titus noted that the SAHRC had hosted two previous hearings into human rights in farming communities in 2003 and 2008. The 2014 hearing focussed on the challenges of safety and security in farming communities. The public hearings allowed the SAHRC to deal with multiple complaints in one setting and to identify and understand the challenges that inhibit the realisation of rights. A number of challenges were identified and recommendations were drawn (see document).

Commissioner Danny Titus of the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) focused on its National Investigative Hearing into Safety Security Challenges in Farming Communities in 2014, the prevention of torture, policing and human rights. SAHRC had hosted two previous hearings into human rights in farming communities in 2003 and 2008. The 2014 hearing focussed on the challenges of safety and security in farming communities. The public hearings allowed the SAHRC to deal with multiple complaints in one setting and to identify and understand the challenges that inhibit the realisation of rights. A number of challenges were identified and recommendations were drawn (see report). In 2015 the report on the hearings was launched and it was presented at a roundtable discussion with the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and other stakeholders dealing with farm killings and murders. The killings were clearly a matter of human rights and the rights of farmers, farm workers and the farming community in general. When one observes the brutality of the killings, it is clear that there is no respect for life, and that perpetrators operate with impunity. The criminal justice system did not appear to provide a deterrent.

The SAHRC looked forward to working with the new National Commissioner and his Back to Basics Programme and it would like to encourage political leadership to come out more on the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights. The police had agreed to cooperate with the SAHRC in a number of areas. However the status of the MOU was that it had come to a halt.

Dr Titus reminded Members that South Africa had signed and ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). It had signed, but was yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the CAT. This would set up the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). South Africa had a shameful history of gross human rights abuses including torture of many of its citizens and inhabitants. Since 1994, South Africa was committed to the preventing and combating of torture of persons by bringing persons who carry out acts of torture to justice as required by international law. As of yet, no public official had been charged with torture, only assault. On the other hand, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) 2014/15 Report indicated 244 deaths in police custody, 145 cases of torture, 34 cases of rape and 3 711 cases of assault by police officers. Further, the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) 2014/15 Annual Report indicated that 46 unnatural deaths took place in correctional centres, 461 complaints on the use of force were lodged and 263 complaints on the use of mechanical restraints were reported. Reports on torture continued to be produced by the Centre for the Study on Violence and Reconciliation and some of the reports were handed over to the SAPS National Commissioner.

Commissioner Titus concluded by recommending that Parliament ratify the Optional Protocol to the CAT, incorporate redress for victims of torture in the Prevention of Torture Act, redefine the attitudes of the Police and Correctional Services, make available more funds for IPID and JICS and ensure JICS was an independent entity.

African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) briefing 
Mr Aggrey Mahanjana, AFASA Secretary General, focused on common rural crime on farms. These included crimes against a person, crimes against property and crime detected by police action. Crimes against a person were not very common within the farming communities, except in cases where the farm owner had disputes with his or her employees and this sometimes led to a murder case. Farmers using cash transactions were more vulnerable in this type of crime, as it was linked to robbery.

Crimes against property included stock theft, illegal hunting with dogs or poaching, vandalising of farm infrastructure, stealing for illegal trade with scrap metal and petty farm crimes.

Mr Mahanjana skipped the section of crime statistics due to limited time, saying he was concerned with the increase in number of livestock stolen. The statistics for the value and number of cattle, sheep and goats stolen and recovered over the past eight years were provided, as well as a provincial breakdown.

He outlined strategic factors to combat rural crime, including providing correct crime statistics, proper identification and screening of members of police forums, adequate resources for police, regular border and farm patrols, neighbourhood watch with an effective communication system, the law is very tight on police officers and very lenient on criminals and the competence of police officers had dropped significantly over years.

Discussion
Ms Molebatsi commented that the police were well trained. Only things that could happen were to have partnership and to ensure information were communicated. A member of SAPS could not recruit criminals because they had to screen the candidates for recruits first. She asked if Mr Mahanjana had visited a second hand market, and if he did, what did he observe?

Mr Maake remarked that Members should not respond on behalf of the police whilst the police were present. He sought clarity on the MoU as it pertained to curriculum development. He felt that some issues could be reported to Parliament in order to address them through legislation rather than through an MoU. He agreed with the comment made by Mr Mahanjana that allowing SAPS to use a strong hand could make information be obtained quickly.

Mr Mhlongo commented that the SAHRC was not helping with the situation at hand. He thought the SAHRC would report to the Committee that there was a gap in its mandate and request the Committee to close that gap so it could become a body with bite like the Office of the Public Protector. He criticised the SAHRC presentation and remarked that it was rather academic. It did not speak to the issues at stake. He wanted to hear about SAHRC cases or actions it had taken to protect people, but not to attack the police. The police were dealing with a serious problem. As all might be aware, white farmers were mostly former soldiers who were well trained and well equipped and people like farm workers could not be recruited as reservists to maintain peace and safety at white farms, unless they were give proper training.

Mr Mbhele stated that the picture painted by Mahnjana’s presentation was unfounded. He sought clarity from the SAHRC on why its recommendation did not include recruitment of reservists. Did SAPS have enough human resources to implement the Rural Safety Strategy. Were the powers of the SAHRC different from that of the Public Protector? What could be done to have a powerful board who can take a binding decision? He sought clarity from Mr Mahanjana on whether scrap metal theft was committed on a big or small scale?

Responses
Dr Titus responded that resourcing and recruitment were not areas of focus, unless SAPS requested it to investigate operational matters. The mandate of the Public Protector was different to that of SAHRC, both these bodies could work hand in hand. Development of training curriculum had nothing to do with amending existing law.

Mr Mahanjana responded that his presentation was not about criticising SAPS but was based on general perceptions. He said that he did not mention rape in his presentation as it was "small" in numbers. He expressed his concern over increasing petty crime such as stealing an animal.

Lt Gen Masemola agreed with Dr Titus that SAPS and SAHRC were working together in educating police officials about human rights. SAPS was ready to cooperate with the SAHRC further.

Lt Gen Masemola said SAPS appreciated that Mr Mahanjana recognised that most of allegations were perceptions and stated that reservist work done on a voluntary basis. Accordingly, there was no way police could recruit people on the basis of being their relatives for work that was voluntary.

With regards to stock theft, Lt Gen Mawela stated that the police was usually called in when livestock was stolen. The police could only track them down or do investigations. With regards to nepotism, he responded that every person recruited by the police was screened. Police officers were trained to take statements and no police officer could be positioned at police stations without knowing how to serve the clients.

Mr Mhlongo remarked that the implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy should be given special treatment and virtually be treated as a sector within a sector.

Mr Mbhele sought clarity from the SAHRC about no police officer being charged with torture.

Dr Titus responded that the SAHRC was committed to promotion of human rights, especially prevention of torture.

The Chairperson agreed with Lt Gen Masemola that the development of a human rights curriculum was essential because such education was important.

The meeting was adjourned.

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