Up-and-coming farmers from Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State are being held “hostage” by stock thieves with very little or no support from the police. This is the view of Free State Agriculture (FSA) and the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO) following a farmers’ imbizo.
The imbizo, which dealt mainly with stock theft, was attended by William Bulwane and Thembeni Nxangisa, the MECs for police, roads and transport and agriculture, respectively.
FSA safety risk analyst Dr Jane Buys and Nico Buys, chairperson of the RPO’s Free State branch, were also present alongside top police and municipal officials and traditional leaders.
During the imbizo the so-called “anti-stock theft patrollers” who were assisting the police in Phuthaditjhaba complained that they did not have sufficient tools nor resources to carry out their activities.
Poor response time
According to Nico the farmers were very dissatisfied with the service delivery of the police and also the stock theft unit. Complaints were about poor response time, poor attendance at crime scenes, little to no feedback on cases and that many suspected criminals operated from Lesotho and weren’t being arrested.
Jane adds that commercial farmers shares the same frustrations and unhappiness as up-and-coming and subsistence farmers regarding livestock theft that has only been escalating in the Free State for years.
The QwaQwa area falls under the border area and is considered a high-crime area for livestock theft. “The fact that livestock theft is escalating and that there are no definite strategies and plans in place by the police to combat it effectively, could possibly indicate that police involvement in the crime is greater than initially suspected,” says Jane.
Both FSA and the RPO have written to provincial and national police structures for many years about staff shortages at stock theft units, as well as limited vehicles and other equipment. In addition to this, there are also capacity problems at stations on the border between Lesotho and South Africa.
According to Nico, Bulwane undertook to make two vehicles available for the patrollers to meet with their counterparts in Lesotho within a month. Another issue to address is CCTV cameras in the border area to address stock theft that have already been paid for but have not yet been installed.
“FSA and the RPO hope that the undertaking of the MEC will not be empty promises, but that it will result in a tangible outcome for the agricultural sector in the area,” says Nico.
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