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The police task force that was formed after the murder of Brendin Horner in the Bethlehem Control Room’s service area, meets regularly. This task team, which was compiled at the request of organized agriculture as well as the farming community in the area and which consists of various divisions of the SAPS, focuses mainly on police involvement and corruption in the organized theft of livestock.
Jakkals le Roux, chairman of the Free State Agriculture (FSA) Rural Safety Committee, confirms that feedback from the task team to farming communities takes place on a “need to know” principle. “However, what is still of concern to farming communities in the area is the lack of capacity within the livestock theft unit that serves the area.” says Le Roux.
A serious request by FSA was repeatedly raised with the office of the Free State MEC for Police, Roads and Transport, Mr Sam Mashinini, the Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in the Free State as well as with Forums at national level (AgriSA and Livestock Theft Prevention Forum) to empower stock theft units in the Free State and especially adjacent to the RSA / Lesotho border with sufficient manpower, vehicles and equipment as they have such a large service area. The Bethlehem area is one of them. Le Roux mentions that there has been no change at all to assist the livestock theft unit and farming communities in this regard. “The only conclusion we can therefore draw is that stock theft is not really a priority for the police and the minister and that there is also no real will to address it.”
Meanwhile, Tommie Esterhuyse, vice-president of FSA, says that the organization’s memorandum with the Free State MEC for Police, Roads and Transport, which was signed on 13 October 2020, must receive further attention. The memorandum between FSA and the MEC calls for police involvement and corruption to be actively addressed by the police with the composition of task forces in the province to investigate especially farm attacks and organized theft of livestock. The request has manifested in the composition of one task force in the Bethlehem area over the past 6 months.
Esterhuyse further mentions that FSA pointed out during a meeting with the provincial management of the SAPS in October 2020, that information regarding alleged police corruption in crimes on agricultural land and especially livestock theft has already been received from 14 towns’ farming communities. As far as FSA’s knowledge is concerned, no other task teams have been set up in the Free State where farming communities could pass on their information to a convener of the police or the Hawks. The lack of the implementation of a working method by the police to establish such structures and communication in all districts of the Free State over the past 6 months is problematic, as the necessary linking of information does not take place.
FSA therefore makes an urgent request to the Free State MEC for Police, Roads and Transport to establish such a working method that can be made available to farming communities. Such actions will indicate that police corruption in all areas of the Free State is taken seriously, FSA says.