Free State Agriculture (FSA) and the Red Meat Producers Organization (RPO) welcome the arrests by the Hawks carried out on 14 July 2021, where five police officers and two livestock speculators were arrested in Bloemfontein and Ladybrand. The arrests are related to a request by Herkie Viljoen, Chairperson of the Bethlehem Control room, to the Minister of Police in October 2020 after the protest march in Senekal over the murder of Brendin Horner, for the establishment of a task team to investigate alleged allegations of police corruption and stock theft. During the Minister’s visit to the Bethlehem area, a document containing the allegations was handed to the Minister. The suspects will appear in court on Ladybrand on 15 July 2021 on charges of stock theft, “defeating the ends of justice” and perjury. The livestock speculators will also face charges for possession of unlicensed firearms.
According to Francois Wilken, President of FSA, the arrests are the result of:
- Information obtained from farming communities (Bethlehem Control Room) contained in a document (“paper trail”) handed over to the Minister of Police. This information was also handed over directly to the Hawks during a meeting of the RPO’s Free State Livestock Theft Forum in collaboration with FSA and the farming community as well as other SAPS divisions involved in the investigations.
- Prove that allegations of police corruption involve a lengthy investigation process that is investigated by specialists such as the Hawks and where the burden of proof for successful prosecution must be obtained in the courts.
- Farmers must continue to report crime incidents to the Police for investigation, in order to ensure that cases can be linked.
- Any information regarding allegations of police corruption should also be contacted with specialist investigators.
Isabel Kruger, chairperson of the RPO’s Free State Livestock Theft Forum, trusts that more arrests and connections of stock theft cases can follow through the task team. During recent Stock Theft Information Center (VIS) meetings, farmers in the Bethlehem control area made it clear that they were no longer reporting stock theft cases, as there were few arrests. The RPO and FSA make themselves available to assist the SAPS in bail when the suspects appear in court.