Farmers, army work to secure borders
25 May 2010
South African farmers have pledged their support to the South African Defence Force (SANDF), saying they are willing to assist the army as they patrol the country's borders.
Following a meeting with Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in Pretoria on Monday, farmers' organisation Agri SA said that while the protection of the country's borders would be spearheaded by the SANDF, thousands of other people, including farmers and rural communities, would also be involved.
Sisulu met with the farmers to discuss how they could partner with the SANDF in the initiative.
Earlier this year, the Defence Force was redeployed to help law enforcement agencies in monitoring the borders of South Africa and Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Secretary of Defence Mpumi Mpofu said Agri SA had raised concerns about the challenges farmers faced as a result of poor policing of the country's borders, which included stock theft, the safety of farm workers, food security and having to deal with illegal immigrants who passed through the farms.
In response, Mpofu assured the farmers that the department was making progress with its efforts to step up security at the borders.
She added that the Defence Department would regularly meet with Agri SA and other agricultural organisations to ensure that farmers were informed on any new developments.
Mpofu said the officials from the department would be visiting particular provinces in coming months, and the Free State region would be prioritised, as the SANDF had also identified the Lesotho border as an area to concentrate on.
President of Agri SA Johannes Moller said famers were looking forward to working with the SANDF in maintaining the integrity of South Africa's borders, adding that his organisation was willing to offer all its structures - provincially, nationally and at grassroots level - to the project.
"The Defence Force has proposed a new way of patrolling our borders and we [farmers] as civil society have bought in to this system and decided to cooperate. It will be an intelligence-driven exercise," Moller said.
He added that better control of the borders would help farming communities, as food security and the safety of farmers were threatened when policing at the borders were inadequate.