Livestock theft crisis in NW could cripple farmers

Henry

Farmers in the area of ​​Lichtenburg in the North West are at a loss with cattle theft which has gotten completely out of hand since November. Nearly 220 livestock have been looted from nine farmers in the area in the past six months.

Moreover, no one was prosecuted for the theft at that time. If nothing is done about the problem, role players warn, many farmers may throw in the towel and stop their operations, which will result in a loss of job opportunities and food security.

“The economic impact of this theft is immeasurable,” says SP du Toit, who has already lost 22 cattle since November. Most of these animals were also pregnant, which makes the loss greater. “It amounts to millions of rand.”

He says the theft is definitely organized crime and that the same thieves are involved every time. “Since November, only two suspects have been arrested and in both cases the cases against them have been dropped.” Du Toit has been farming in the area for 15 years and says that farmers detected an increase in livestock theft in 2022, but that theft has really gotten out of hand since November.

Abrie van der Walt is another farmer who goes through the theft. He has already lost 44 cattle since November. “We really have a dilemma. Our files just pile up at the police and the cases are not investigated properly.” He says farmers are close to giving up.

Farmers have even gone so far as to pay informants to gather evidence, which they then hand over to the police, but nothing has come of it yet. This includes number plates and names of possible people involved.

Du Toit says it sometimes takes up to a year to get the results of fingerprints and DNA tests.

According to him, it is the same modus operandi every time. A few cattle are stolen during the day while they are in the field, when the herdsman goes to eat or go to the toilet. “We only find out that cattle are gone when we arrest them at the kraal. Then the thieves are already far away.”

The cattle are then kept in old holes of diamond prospectors in the field and slaughtered. Farmers later come only on the skins or carcasses of the animals.

“The cattle are kept for days without food or water. Yesterday we saw that they had chopped the animals’ heels so that they could not run away.”

Naudé Pienaar, deputy general manager at Agri North West, says the effect of this theft on farmers is much greater than financial. “Farmers not only lose money, but their whole reason for farming. The emotional impact is incredible.”

According to Pienaar, farmers in the area are already doing their best to combat crime. “The neighborhood watch does an incredibly good job, also in recovering stolen livestock and catching thieves. But they cannot arrest or prosecute the guys. The big problem is that farmers don’t get any service delivery from the police.”

He says he has no doubt that police members and even members of the prosecuting authority are involved in these crimes, which certainly plays a role in why perpetrators are not prosecuted.

A police officer from Bloemhof in North West appeared in the magistrate’s court in this town last week after they were caught earlier with suspected stolen cattle in their possession. Meanwhile, the leader of an alleged livestock theft syndicate in the North West, Rasta Kenosi, was released on bail of R5 000 for the second time in January.

Agri NW and other role players are currently trying to facilitate discussions between prosecutors and investigating officers so that parties can get a better idea of ​​where the respective cases stand and what still needs to be investigated. Pienaar says they also hope to convince the police that they are dealing with organized crime so that the help of task forces and provincial police units can be called in.