Saai launches trespassing campaign for 2024

Illegal entry and trespassing on private properties have become one of the most general crimes hampering proper agricultural production on small and medium scale farms in South Africa.

It is frequently reported all over the country in all nine provinces. Trespassing leads to more serious crimes such as theft, illegal grazing of livestock, damaging of property, cutting of fences, and creating conflict and attacks.

It seems that the South African Police Service (SAPS) does not view trespassing as a serious offence and Saai could find very few examples where the police acted against the perpetrators.

On the one hand, SAPS seldom, if ever, assists farmers to deal with people or livestock who are illegally on their farms and on the other hand they seldom, if ever, investigate and arrest intruders.

The problem of trespassing on private farms is so wide and so serious that Saai has decided to make 2024 the year of combating illegal entry and intrusion. For this purpose, Saai has launched a comprehensive campaign to assist farmers to push back.

The campaign will kick off with PAIA applications against Ronald Lamola, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, and Bheki Cele, the Minister of Police, to gather and evaluate the numbers of cases which were reported at police stations, the investigations into these cases, the numbers of arrests, the numbers of those who have been charged, and the outcomes of these criminal cases in our courts.

It will be followed by a massive campaign to motivate farmers and landowners to report such cases at police stations and to also notify Saai of these cases with case numbers, so that the data can be processed and lawyers can follow up.

Saai is looking for the best cases to challenge SAPS in courts to force them to act against trespassers on farms in terms of the law. Saai will set up a barometer for illegal trespassing and publish it on a weekly basis, in which incidents, follow-ups, arrests, charges and judgements will be displayed to make the data transparent and accessible for all to see.

The data will highlight the hotspots and display how the police perform in the execution of their duties.

Saai will collect the stories along with the extent of damages, cancelled lease agreements, damages to crops and grazing, the frustration of landowners to publish them in the conventional and social media and to ensure that their network of more than 120 embassies will also remain well informed.

In addition, Saai will also link up with parties in opposition benches in parliament to ensure that the Minister is held accountable for the conduct of the relevant departments by means of parliamentary questions.

Saai launched gate- and fence notice boards some three years ago, which is now being upgraded, complete with QR codes. When these QR codes are scanned, it gives the farmer access to a variety of functions such as complete legal advice drafted by lawyers to give direction to the landowner or any other interested party about what to do during a land occupation. Another QR code gives you access to a complaint form that can be digitally drafted, completed and submitted. Saai also stores a copy of the complaint on the landowner’s behalf to build a case for future legal actions.

There will also be an extensive social media strategy to raise awareness of the problem of trespassing and illegal grazing on farms.

It is important that farmers take part in this 2024 campaign. The worst that can happen to a landowner when it comes to trespassing on his farm is when such landowners do nothing and hope that someone else would do it for them.

We firmly believe that through a concerted effort such as this campaign, we can create the necessary protection for farmers against creeping loss of land or the use thereof.