The plundering of the orchards in the Sunday’s River Valley by a highly organised criminal network is placing thousands of jobs at risk and must stop.
Millions of rands worth of lemons are being stripped from orchards in the valley using 30-ton trucks and bakkies that are driven into the orchards at night. Export-quality lemons are being targeted, which can sell for more than R10 000 a ton.
On Friday myself and DA Shadow MEC for Safety and Security, Bobby Stevenson MPL, visited the station commander of the Addo police station to impress upon him the urgency of bringing the syndicate to book that is engaged in stripping orchards in the Sunday’s River Valley.
We also asked him to refer this matter to the Hawks as this is obviously a highly organised operation.
Three weeks ago, a farmer had an entire lemon orchard stripped at full moon, to the value of R3-million. He is one of a number of farmers who are victims of the syndicate.
Desperate farmers are extremely unhappy with the lack of police progress in this matter, hence the visit by the high-powered DA-delegation. The farmers have complained bitterly that police refuse to open cases, due to the nature of the crime.
After the visit of the DA-MPLs, the South African Police Service (SAPS) have agreed to open cases. The commander informed us that they should have opened cases.
The DA calls on the SAPS to pull out all stop to bring this syndicate to book so that jobs in this area won’t be jeopardised. The citrus industry is the second largest contributor to the economy of the Eastern Cape. The opportunities that this creates must be protected at all cost.
I will be facilitating a meeting between the farmers and the SAPS next week. I have asked my colleague, Bobby Stevenson, to assist in following up this matter with the SAPS on a provincial level.
Safety and security and economic growth go hand and hand.
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