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Stock theft: economic sabotage of the agricultural sector

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The shortcomings currently being detected at Livestock Theft Units (FSU) in the South African Police Service (SAPS) by farming communities in the Free State, are contributing to what can almost be regarded as economic sabotage of the agricultural sector. This is the opinion of Free State Agriculture (FSA) and the Red Meat Producers Organization (RPO).

Jakkals le Roux, chairman of FSA’s Rural Safety Committee, has expressed his concern that stock theft is not considered a priority by the police. “For farmers, this situation leads to economic ruin which seriously undermines the agricultural sector. It’s not to mention the impact it has on emerging and subsistence farmers”, says Le Roux.

According to le Roux and Isabel Kruger, chairman of the Livestock Theft Prevention Forum in the Free State, the astronomical shortages of resources are increasing, with no actual intervention from police top structure. “Due to the shortages, crime scenes are not effectively investigated and detectives sometimes show up days after a case has been reported. This then contributes to the fact that many of these stock theft incidents are not reported.”

From cases that have been reported, there are farming communities that report losses of up to R10 million per year. Highly plagued areas of the Free State including Brandfort, Ladybrand, Heilbron, and Fouriesburg – are currently under great pressure due to increases in stock theft. Border towns located along the RSA / Lesotho border in particular are suffering from a large increase in the type of property-related crime, says Dr Jane Buys, Safety Risk Analyst at FSA.

“Stock theft is an organized crime that is increasingly run by crime syndicates”, says Buys. “To stop these syndicates, the involvement of other role players in the SAPS, such as the Hawks, Organized Crime Unit and Crime Intelligence, is needed.”

Farmers try to protect their property and especially livestock as much as possible. FSA and the RPO are of the opinion that the Police must fulfil their legal obligation in order to make the necessary manpower, vehicles and equipment available to ensure the survival of the agricultural sector in the Free State. “The intervention of the government and the Minister of Police has become critical in addressing the shortcomings.”