Releasing crime statistics for the second quarter of this year Police Minister Bheki Cele acknowledged livestock theft was a serious crime likening it to economic sabotage.
Farmers in particular in South Africa’s central Free State province appear to be more on the receiving end of the unwanted attention of livestock pilferers with stolen stock mostly going across the Lesotho border. This is borne out by statistics released by the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). In its October round-up of border protection actions, Joint Ops note more than 230 head of stolen livestock was recovered by soldiers patrolling the border with Lesotho. An increase in farm attacks in areas close to the Lesotho border is reported by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the province, the most heinous of which was the murder of Senekal farm manager Brendin Horner in October.
The Police Minister said more than 7 300 cases of stock theft, involving 26 000 plus sheep and over 14 000 head of cattle were reported to police in the three month period April to June. He did not give any detail on stock illegally taken out of South Africa indicating, instead, the creation of a stock theft task team specifically for Free State.
Cele was taken to task by DA shadow state security minister Dianne Kohler Barnard who questioned the farm attacks and murder statistics given by the SA Police Service.
“I am of the view they are severely under-reported, particularly as relates to a 63% increase in farm murder. In past months the DA received numerous reports from farming communities nationally where people were turned away from police stations and refused the right to open a case.
“We watched as farm attacks were downplayed year after year, deliberately I believe, as a logical follow-up of the SA Police Service (SAPS) removing reporting on farm attacks and murders from official crime statistics for many years. I believe the percentages, particularly related to farm murders and attacks, should be much higher.
“In KwaZulu-Natal, for example, reports of farm residents being turned away from a SAPS station when they attempted to open a case in relation to a farm attack were received. The farm manager was attacked and severely beaten up, left in a pool of blood, managed to escape and is in hospital. Police from Donnybrook allegedly told residents they cannot open a case until the farm manager recovers and lays charges himself.
“We have report after report of no CAS numbers sent to people in rural areas who opened a case, which means what? The police don’t believe there is a case? That there is no investigation taking place?” Kohler Barnard asked.