Free State police spokesperson Brigadier Sam Makhele has slammed farmers’ allegations that it does not have sufficient capacity to sufficiently address increasing livestock theft within the province.
Speaking to Food For Mzansi, Makhele took exception with concerns raised by Jakkals le Roux, the chairperson of Free State Agriculture’s rural safety committee.
Le Roux said SAPS did not prioritise allegations of police involvement in stock theft and corruption.
Farmers felt that despite high-level government engagement about rural safety, they were still concerned with the police’s capabilities.
Also, to their knowledge, rural stock theft units were not empowered with resources, vehicles and equipment. This, said Free State Agriculture, was particularly the case with units adjacent to South Africa’s border with Lesotho.
Makhele described these claims as untrue, adding that “enough resources have been pumped into these units.”
‘Enough resources allocated’
Following police minister Bheke Cele’s engagement with Free State farmers last year, a multi-team consisting of stock theft detectives, crime intelligence officials as well as the Hawks were deployed.
“Unfortunately, this team cannot be assigned to one area (only), but it is moving around to address problematic areas as and when they are identified,” Makhele says.
According to him resources for the stock theft units are based on needs on the ground.
“The vehicles are experiencing mechanical breakdowns from time to time due to the terrain in which they are operating, but enough resources have been pumped into these units to enable them to do their work.”
Makhele adds that the deputy provincial commissioner for crime detection, Major-General Aphathia Modise, is personally leading special operations in towns like Ladybrand, Bethlehem and Ficksburg.
Meanwhile Free State Agriculture said their plea for task forces to investigate farm attacks and organised livestock theft has, disappointingly, manifested in only one task force over the past six months.
This request was communicated to Free State MEC for police, roads and transport, Sam Mashinini, on 13 October 2020. A memorandum of understanding was signed between FSA and Mashinini.
Makhele, however, said farmers weren’t promised task forces. He explains, “A task force is an elite unit specialising in high-level disruptive operations. It can only be deployed as and when authorised by head office. The Free State itself, as a province, has no units called task forces.”
Leader farmer hits back
Free State Agriculture vice-president Tommie Esterhuyse has hit back at Makhele’s claims. He said during an October 2020 meeting with the provincial SAPS management, information regarding alleged police corruption in crimes on agricultural land was shared.
At the time, incriminating information from 14 different farming communities were received.
“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 six months is problematic,” said Esterhuyse.
Makhele adds that farmers as well as Free State Agriculture have the contact numbers of major generals, who are district commissioners, with whom they can share critical information at any point in time. This includes a personal number for Modise.
“We cannot have task teams in all the areas as their purpose is to address a problematic area and [then] move [on] to another area. They are not there to replace stock theft units, but to spontaneously address problematic areas.”