Small-scale livestock farmers are under siege, and agricultural associations and farmers both agree that this has had a devastating impact. One farmer has even recommended that the police establish a specialised task team to investigate livestock theft. Although the latest national crime statistics show an overall decrease in stock theft by 4.5%, they reveal an increase in livestock theft in Limpopo, Gauteng and the North West.
According to the SAPS, livestock theft in Gauteng went up 16.9%, while there was a 28.7% increase in Limpopo and a 10% increase in the North West. SA Farmer’s Development Association’s executive chairman Dr. Siyabonga Madlala said these statistics were unsurprising. “A high number of complaints about theft have been received by our organisation, and this also includes a high theft of assets on farms which in most cases leave people injured and is wreaking havoc with the sustainability of farming operations and lives linked to (them),” Madlala said.
“Small-scale farmers tread a fine balancing act of commercial farming and sustenance. “Even one head of livestock stolen has a devastating effect on small-scale farmers, and these losses cannot be happening at the worst time given the livestock movement ban which has been caused by the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak,” he noted. Madlala pointed out that farm security was an issue for many small-scale farmers as it was expensive and could only be afforded by commercial farmers.
He also said that tracking stolen stock was difficult because the culprits employed a “grab and skin” tactic, which meant they ensured that a stolen sheep was already hanging in a butchery in 24 hours. “Livestock thieves come in armed and are, therefore, dangerous,” Madlala told Vutivi News. “Farmers are under siege, and they pray that they do not stumble upon the perpetrators when these incidents happen, as lives can be lost.”
Pheladi Matsole, who has a farm in the Free State, was a recent victim of livestock theft, even though his province reported a 9.8% decrease in livestock theft. He told Vutivi News that 14 heads of cattle and 14 pregnant pigs were stolen from his farm two months ago. Matsole said that one cattle cost about R13,500, which meant that he lost R189,000 worth of cattle. And a pig was priced at R3500, which meant he lost R49,000, but because they were pregnant, it was even more.
“The matter is still under investigation, but I don’t have my livestock back,” he said. “The police force should establish a specialised task team because they would then be able to be equipped to investigate livestock theft, just as they were able to establish task forces for other serious crimes in the country.”