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Emerging farmers in the Phuthaditjhaba area have been ‘handed over’ to stock thieves and receive little or no support from the police.
This is the conclusion reached by Free State Agriculture (FSA) and the Red Meat Producers Organization (RPO) during an Imbizo at Phuthaditjhaba police station in Qwaqwa on 15 February 2022.
The Imbizo, which dealt mainly with stock theft, was attended by the MEC for Police, Roads and Transport, Mr William Bulwane, and MEC Nxangisa for Agriculture. Dr Jane Buys of FSA and Nico Buys of the RPO Free State were also present, along with police top structure at the provincial, district and station level, as well as traditional leaders and the local municipality.
The “Anti Stock Theft Patrollers” who are assisting the police in the area in order to address stock theft, have complained that they do not have sufficient tools and resources to carry out their activities.
Nico Buys, chairman of the RPO in the Free State, states that the emerging farmers were very dissatisfied with the service delivery of the police and also the stock theft unit. Complaints were about poor response time, poor attendance at crime scenes, little to no feedback on cases, that many criminals operate from Lesotho and they are not arrested.
According to Dr Jane Buys, safety risk analyst at Free State Agriculture, the commercial farmers share the same frustrations and unhappiness with the emerging and subsistence farmers regarding livestock theft that has only been escalating in the Free State for years. The QwaQwa area falls under the border area and is a high crime area for livestock theft. “The fact that livestock theft is escalating and that there are no definite strategies and plans in place by the police to combat it effectively, could possibly indicate that police involvement in the crime is greater than initially suspected.”
FSA and the RPO have been complaining in writing to the Provincial and National Police for years about the shortages at Stock Theft Units regarding manpower, vehicles and equipment. In addition to this, there are also shortages of border patrols and capacity of the police to empower their rural security coordinators and stations located along the RSA / Lesotho border, in order to assist the SANDF in addressing stock theft across borders.
According to Nico Buys, MEC Bulwane undertook to make 2 vehicles available for the patrollers to meet with their counterparts in Lesotho within a month. Another issue to address is CCTV cameras in the border area to address stock theft that have already been paid for but have not yet been installed.
MEC Bulwane undertook to make 2 vehicles available to the patrollers within a month’s time, to meet with his counterpart in Lesotho, as well as to pay attention to the installation of CCTV cameras installed in the border area a while ago that was already paid for, in order to address livestock theft.
FSA and the RPO hope that the undertaking of the MEC will not be empty promises, but that it will result in a tangible outcome for the agricultural sector in the area.