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Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, 10 December 1997
South African Farmers Call for State of Emergency
JOHANNESBURG (Dec. 10) XINHUA - A three-month state of emergency should be declared in South Africa to enable the security forces to crack down on criminals, South African farmers urged today at a meeting in Newcastle in northern Kwazulu-Natal.
At least 13 farmers were murdered in 18 attacks in rural areas last month and four others have been killed since the beginning of December.
"The government should declare a three-month-long state of emergency of the whole of the Republic of South Africa, or in selected magisterial districts, so that the security forces can search, detain and vigorously sort out criminals, gangs and syndicates," Graham McKintosh, president of Kwazulu-Natal Agricultural Union, told about 400 farmers.
Farmers also called for a six-month moratorium on the prosecution of people in possession of unlicensed firearms, to allow them time to hand in their weapons.
"At the end of the moratorium anybody found in possession of an unlicensed firearm should face a mandatory sentence of five years in jail without the option of a fine," McKintosh said.
Farmers were adamant that the death penalty should be reintroduced, and that corporal punishment should be meted out to juvenile offenders.
Another suggestion was that the government should allow the courts the freedom to impose sentences that would deter criminals.
Farmers were critical of the justice system, which they said favored criminals. They questioned why hardened criminals were given light sentences for serious crimes.
As peace-loving citizens, they said, they were frustrated and that the government was not doing enough to stop attacks on farmers.
On Tuesday, South African Agricultural Union leader Chris du Toit gave an ultimatum to the government after meeting South African President Nelson Mandela.
Du Toit said farmers would consider further measures to protect themselves if the government failed to curb rural murders by the end of January.
But today he said his organization will still cooperate with the government. Farmers also said at the meeting that they did not want to take law into their own hands.
In another development, all major political parties and agriculture leaders would meet in Pretoria on Thursday to discuss the issue.
Copyright 1997 Xinhua News Agency (via Comtex). All rights reserved
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