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Livestock theft: Free State Agriculture announces private investigators.

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Livestock theft has gotten out of hand to such an extent that Free State Agriculture (FSA) is now forced to establish its own private investigators initiative that focuses on livestock theft.

According to Francois Wilken, president of Free State Agriculture, farmers suffer huge financial losses every year as a result of organized livestock theft. “In the Free State, the police’s abilities and capacity to combat livestock theft are very limited, especially in relation to investigating livestock theft cases, making arrests and successfully taking cases through the courts. Shortage of manpower, vehicles and equipment at Livestock Theft Units of the SAPS is a major source of concern”.

Dr Jane Buys, Safety risk analyst of FSA, says the private investigators are an initiative that will take place in collaboration between FSA’s Rural Safety committee and the private security company LGV. “The first phase of this project was launched in the Fezile Dabe (FD) district from 1 July 2023 where our PSIRA registered private investigators are active and all investigations will take place in collaboration with the police under the auspices of the Rural Safety Strategy”.

The high crime areas that experience large stock thefts in the Fezile Dabe district will each have a private investigator and have already gone through a course in which, among other things, they also received an extensive manual regarding all relevant legislation. The towns that will be served by private investigators are currently:

  • Heilbron
  • Mafube
  • Kroonstad / Steynsrus
  • Cornelia / Villiers
  • Parys / Sasolburg area

Buys mentions that the private investigator will be helpful to farmers with, among other things:

• Preservation of the crime scene;

• Taking of an A1 statement. However, the farmer must still report the matter to the local police station;

• Contact/cooperation with the Livestock Theft detective in the area;

• To hand over all evidence to the Livestock theft detective;

• Launching a search to locate the stolen livestock.

Peet Swanepoel from Parys will act as provincial coordinator for the PSIRA private investigators. He is a seasoned livestock theft investigator who has been involved in such investigations for decades and has also trained livestock theft detectives. He will send out the private investigator that is based closest to the complaint.

The service will be available free of charge to fully paid FSA members. Other farmers will also be able to be served if they pay a predetermined amount into FSA’s Safety Fund.

Buys says that the project will be evaluated quarterly for rollout to other districts’ high crime areas in relation to livestock theft, in cooperation with the police. She requests farmers to ensure that their livestock, especially younger livestock, are branded and or tattooed in order to facilitate the tracking of the livestock as well as to prove ownership.