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Rural Crime and Farm Safety

Farm attacks, Tips for Security on the farm, Rural Safety Strategy (RSS)

Stock theft is covered on the “Animal husbandry” page.


Farming units experience crime, from the theft of infrastructure and produce to the attacks on those who work the land and live on it. Some of the crimes are opportunistic but the possibility of syndicates being involved must be acknowledged.

The murder rate from farm attacks, in particular, has drawn much attention – or very little – depending on who you are and how you have experienced it. In the past, farmer groups and representatives took the matter to The Hague and overseas television, drawing international censure against farm attacks in South Africa.

This is obviously an issue in agricultural circles, and it should be one beyond this. Farmers make a country food secure. It is not in a country’s interest that this sector is exposed to violent threat to the extent that people leave the sector and possible new entrants are discouraged from doing so.

Security Tips

Numerous farm attacks are prevented through early observation and detection of suspicious vehicles/persons moving in rural areas by both workers and farmers.

A number of safety tips have been passed on to farmers.


  • An electric perimeter fence is a good idea. Failing that, a four-foot fence to keep the dogs around the house.
  • Have security chains on the doors.
  • Don’t sleep in a place where you are visible from the outside. Security gates should be installed at the sleeping quarters inside the house as well as outside. (It goes without saying that you should have burglar-proofing and an effective alarm system).
  • Don’t go outside at night to investigate noises. Call the police or farm watch.
  • A fence, rather than a wall, around the house ensures better visibility.
  • Have a torch or two handy, preferably in a strategic place in the house.
  • Test your sirens and alarm systems regularly.
  • Have a first aid kit; know what is in it.


  • Farmers should keep well-trained dogs on the premises, with some kept inside the house at night.
  • Pay attention to their behaviour e.g. if they become inexplicably sick, or if their behaviour is different upon your return to the house (if they are fearful or bark at a particular place).
  • On which part of the yard do they spend most of their time? The other side might well deserve some attention as it makes you vulnerable.


  • Good relations and communication with farm workers is crucial.
  • Know every person, who his/her family is, where they come from.
  • Have copies of your workers’ identity documents.
  • Depending on your relations with them, they could be included in a farm watch system. Certainly they should be encouraged to be alert on security matters and to report anything unusual – alien motor cars, strangers on the farm etc. Reward your workers for useful hints and information.
  • Be aware of unusual behaviour and activity on their part especially if you have just hired or retrenched somebody e.g. if they vacate their posts without any reason.


  • Cellphones should have the telephone numbers of the police and farm watch keyed in for easy access during an emergency.


  • Keys should be carefully controlled to prevent their duplication. Remove all keys from all vehicles when not in use. Be aware if keys disappear or re-appear without explanation.


  • Pay wages electronically.
  • Selling products for cash to the public on your farm exposes you.
  • As far as possible, avoid keeping large sums of money on the premises.


  • Be wary of strangers who wish to buy livestock, certainly if you do not sell livestock as a rule. Or they may be “looking for work”, or making enquiries about somebody who is in your employ.

Communication & Social

  • Have an emergency plan and practice it with your family so that each one of them knows what to do.
  • Let your family know what your movements are.
  • Liaise with your local police station or agricultural union on what the law allows you to do.
  • Be attentive when you hear conversations of unusual events.
  • Encourage a safety consciousness amongst your colleagues.

Farm Layout

  • Don’t plant trees or shrubs near gates. These are hiding places for perpetrators.
  • Be aware of gates that are closed when they ought to be open.

Attitude & Routine

  • Be alert at all times.
  • Vary your routine. If you have two entrances to your farm, you have the advantage.
  • It’s a good idea not going to sleep immediately after switching off the lights. Stay awake for a while.
Sources:; , Kobus Visser (Agri SA) and Perpetrators of farm attacks: An Offender Profile, D Mistry & JDhlamini, 2001.

Further reading:

National strategy and government contact

Safety and security leads to increased confidence in the economy and social structures.

Read the Parliamentary Monitoring Group‘s account “The living and working conditions of farmworkers, farm dwellers and farmers: engagement with relevant departments, with DALRRD Minister present” (16 September 2022), which includes the presentation “RURAL SAFETY STRATEGY BRIEFING”.

The National Development Plan (NDP) chapter 12 is “Building safer communities”. It sees the importance of an “integrated approach to make safety and security a reality for all South Africans in 2030”, and sets out practical measures towards this.

The Rural Safety Strategy (RSS) was developed in 2009/10 as a collaboration between the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), agricultural unions, the then Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs and the South African Police Services (SAPS). It has been revised and 2019 saw statements of support from role players. The RSS focuses on preventing farm attacks, stock theft, and farm infrastructure destruction.

“The good partnership approach within the RSS contributes significantly to the success in terms of a pro-active approach on farm attacks. Only 5 producers who are members of organized agriculture were targeted in farm attacks the past financial year in the Free State. It could be deducted that the involvement of farming communities to participate within the RSS, by building and improving relationships with SAPS, neighbors, communities, workers/dwellers on farms; to improve communication networks through safety WhatsApp groups and radio networks; by sharing information on pro-active and preventative measures; and lastly to enable them through training workshops by both organized agriculture and SAPS as to how to act/react in emergency situations, definitely contributes to safer rural areas and farming communities in the Free State” (FSA, 2018).

South African Police Services (SAPS)

Department of Justice and Correctional Services and

Stats SA

Find crime statistics on the website,

Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA)

Regulates the private security industry. See

Role players

Note: Click to expand the headings below. To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

RTS – Digital and analogue two way radio equipment, networks systems, 4×4 winches and lattice towers
Cellsecure Holdings – Automate/regulate your security by means of your cell phone e.g. any breach of security sends an SMSs to (up to) five numbers.
NWET – Video surveillance
CrisisOnCall – A 24-hour countrywide call-centre to deal with any crisis. One feature is the trip monitoring service which provides peace of mind when travelling back to the farm. CrisisOnCall contributes on a monthly base to the Agri Securitas Trust Fund.

Websites and publications

Visit the websites of role players listed earlier on this page.


Some articles