The South African National Defence Force and Agri SA met on 30 November 2020 to explore further areas of co-operation; the establishment of a mutually beneficial relationship and more specifically to explore integrated rural economic development and rural security initiatives.
The Chief of the SANDF, General 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 Defence Force to enhance the contribution of agriculture to food security and to address poverty in rural areas. “The safety of our farming communities along the SA 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 towards 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 Defence Force informed Agri SA that it was working on finalising the Mzantsi Home Guard ability.
This Home Guard function will assist with an organised and co-ordinated blanket coverage of the RSA’s rural areas in the RSA, which will allow the SANDF to become even more pro-active in its approach to operations. Home Guard members will receive basic military training, including additional training such as information gathering, dealing with disasters, providing support for communities in distress, and will play a vital role in rural safety and security. Agri SA welcomed the home guard function as it can improve rural safety, security and the further implementation of the National Rural Safety Strategy.
The C SANDF Project KOBA-TLALA, which means “chasing away hunger”, in Tswana was high on the meeting agenda. The Minister of Defence & Military Veterans, Ms 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.
Agri SA learnt from the SANDF presentations that KOBA-TLALA is the flagship project of the Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Solly Shoke, whereby the SANDF will not necessarily 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 are able to join hands and from which the SANDF is able to procure agricultural and other products, goods and services.
In this regard, the C SANDF Project KOBA-TLALA has taken further steps by cooperating 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 Project KOBA-TLALA and the utilisation of the Mzantsi Home Guard System to help improve rural safety and security.
The Chief of the SANDF requested follow-up meetings with Agri SA to discuss the further implementation of Project KOBA-TLALA and also 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 sector to discuss their role in the implementation of the C SANDF Project KOBA-TLALA.