The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and Agri SA met on 30 November to explore further areas of co-operation. This includes the establishment of a mutually beneficial relationship. More specifically they are exploring integrated rural economic development and rural security initiatives.

The chief of the SANDF, Gen Solly Shoke, said: “The Defence Force should be a role-player in assisting communities in distress and farming communities. The SANDF should be ‘a bridge builder’.” He added that he was aware of the security and safety threat faced by farming communities along the international borders and that cross-border crime should be dealt with to address this threat.

Agri SA president, Pierre Vercueil, said the organisation wants to work with the SANDF to enhance the contribution of agriculture to food security and to address poverty in rural areas. “The safety of our farming communities along the South African borders is important to Agri SA. For this reason, Agri SA and the SANDF should work together to help improve rural safety and security.”

Both organisations agreed that agriculture is an appropriate vehicle to contribute to economic growth. Therefore, it is important to deal effectively with the crime and other community problems along the borders and in rural areas. In this regard, the SANDF informed Agri SA that it was working on finalising the Mzansi Home Guard ability.

Home Guard to improve rural safety

This Home Guard function will assist with an organised and co-ordinated blanket coverage of the rural areas in the country. This will allow the SANDF to become even more pro-active in its approach to operations. Home Guard members will receive basic military training. This will include training such as information gathering, dealing with disasters, and providing support for communities in distress (water purification, for example). Agri SA welcomed the Home Guard function as it can improve rural safety, security, and further implementation of the National Rural Safety Strategy.

The C SANDF Project KOBA-TLALA, which means ‘chasing away hunger’, was high on the meeting agenda. The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, approved a concept whereby the SANDF will use its footprint in rural and semi-rural areas to create viable and sustainable communities.

Food security high on the agenda

Agri SA learnt from the SANDF presentations that KOBA-TLALA is the flagship project of Gen Shoke. The SANDF will not necessarily use this structure for its contribution to the developmental agenda, but will use its inherent collateral utility and assist in the development of emerging farmers to eradicate poverty with the support of commercial farmers.

The intent is to assist with the facilitation of a process whereby commercial farmers, small-scale and emerging farmers can join hands and from which the SANDF can procure agricultural and other products, goods and services.

In this regard, KOBA-TLALA has taken further steps by co-operating with Agri SA to assist in developing emerging farmers and eradicating poverty, with the support of commercial farmers. Agri SA said that it was committed to working with the SANDF to help roll out KOBA-TLALA. Furthermore, AgriSA will utilise the Mzansi Home Guard System to help improve rural safety and security.

Gen Shoke requested follow-up meetings with Agri SA to discuss the further implementation of KOBA-TLALA and to develop further local joint initiatives, including improvement of the crime situation in the border areas.

The SANDF will also engage other role-players in the agricultural value chain to discuss their role in the implementation of KOBA-TLALA. – Press release, Agri SA and SANDF

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