Stock theft: It's SA's forgotten scourge, and it's on the up
SA loses one economic farming unit a day to rustling, according to new report
National crime statistics released by Police Minister Bheki Cele on Tuesday suggest stock theft is on the increase in SA.
But what the minister did not say was that SA lost R1.2m to livestock theft during the 2017/18 financial year (up from R1m the previous year).
This information is contained in the livestock theft report prepared by Willie Clark, national chairperson of Livestock Theft Prevention, which was delivered at the National Red Meat Producers Congress on September 11 and 12 in Pretoria.
National statistics showed 28,849 stock theft cases were reported to the police between April 1 2017 and March 31 2018 — up by 1,947 from the 26,902 from the previous year.
Shocking statistics have revealed that 182 cattle are stolen a day, as well as 251 sheep and 117 goats. This means SA loses one economic farming unit a day and, in cases where people farm with limited numbers of livestock, their livelihood is simply destroyed, Clark’s report said.
According to the report, while stock theft is on the rise in various African countries, Lesotho and the Eastern Cape have been identified as hotspots for stock theft in Southern Africa.
More than 10,000 cattle were stolen in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga in 2017/18, more than 20,000 sheep in the Eastern Cape and Free State, and more than 8,000 goats in the Northern Cape and North West.
But according to Clark’s report, cattle rustling is not unique to South Africa, but a global phenomenon.
The report says:
ln Nigeria livestock theft is one of the major security threats affecting the country. Hardly a day goes by in Nigeria without reports of cattle rustling.
ln India, cattle rustling has become a controversial issue over the past few decades. Called “lifting” there, cattle rustling is a growing scourge in New Delhi, as increasingly affluent Indians develop a taste for meat, even the flesh of cows, which are considered sacred in Hinduism.
ln Madagascar, it was reported in 2012 that nearly 100 cattle thieves were killed in a wave of weekend attacks in southern areas of the Indian Ocean island plagued by rustling.
ln Ireland, a farmer had his livelihood destroyed in 2015 after 75 cattle and 25 sheep were stolen from his lands near Kilbeggan. Rising cattle thefts and livestock rustling threaten the traceability system on which the safety of Irish beef is founded.
In New Zealand, 500 cows were rustled from a farm in 2016.
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini also recently became a victim of cattle rustling after cattle thieves broke into his three kraals in the middle of the night and walked away with his 21 cattle — including his prized Boran.
Only 10 of the king’s cattle were later recovered in KwaCeza about 65km from Nongoma.
In his report, Clark said: “Determining the extent of livestock theft purely on the basis of the number of cases reported is problematic, as there are other variables that also need to be taken into account.
“In certain regions more poultry, donkeys and horses are stolen, with these being defined as livestock by the National Livestock Theft Prevention Forum.”
Clark added: “The number of reported livestock theft cases is not the only variable to consider in determining the extent of livestock theft, as the modus operandi of the offenders differs depending on whether they are stealing for survival, or out of greed, as the latter is more organised.”
The latest crime statistics have revealed stock theft had increased across all of the country’s nine provinces compared to the previous year.
The increases were, in the Northern Cape (14,9%), Limpopo (11,8%), Free State (9,7%), Mpumalanga (9,3%), North West (8%), Western Cape (7,7%) KwaZulu-Natal (6,1%), Eastern Cape (3,2%) and Gauteng (1,1%).
Clark concluded in his report that agriculture was an extremely important economic contributor to the social well-being of South Africa.
“Producers need to take control of their own destiny in relation to stock theft, as one of the biggest myths in the criminal justice system is that the police are able to prevent crime. In this regard the necessary livestock theft prevention forums established should be judiciously utilised to protect the agricultural sector in general and red meat producers in particular.”
He said the phenomenon of livestock theft “clearly cannot be generalised, as it differs in extent between regions and provinces”.
“Nevertheless, it is the role and responsibility of the National Livestock Theft Prevention Forum to inform the general public of its efforts to reduce the scourge of livestock theft.”