Farmers in KZN ask for assistance to curb livestock theft

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Small scale farmers in the uThukela District in KwaZulu-Natal are calling for government to assist in curbing livestock theft in the area. Police have identified uThukela, uMgungundlovu and Zululand districts as hotspots for stock theft.

Farmers say they have been struggling with their livestock being stolen and then slaughtered or sold while cases are never solved. In an effort to fight this scourge, the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development has introduced a unique branding mark for each district.

Farmers in Loskop say criminals are now stealing their cattle at gunpoint. Thieves apparently move the livestock to unknown hiding places under the cover of darkness.

The provincial government has introduced unique branding marks for each district in the province to make it easier to identify lost cattle.

For many rural communities, livestock is their livelihood as it is the only source of income.

Mphikeleli Dladla makes a living through livestock farming. He has fallen victim to stock theft several times, losing thousands of rands.

“In 2002, 14 of my goats were stolen at my farm. These thieves came at night I could hear some noise when I went to look, they fired several gunshots. That same year they came back and stole my seven cows at gunpoint as well. My livestock have never been recovered. There has been no clue as to where my animals have gone. We can’t defend ourselves. The police come to take all the information but the cases are not resolved and there’s no feedback,” says Dladla.

Farmers have called on government to assist them in implementing more stringent measures to protect their livestock.

“Last year in November seven cows were stolen. In August they tried to steal my goats luckily, they were unable. When I went outside to have a look, they fired gunshots and I went back inside the house. If the government can assist us small farmers put trackers on our livestock, like it’s done with cars, maybe that will help because the life we’re living as small farmers is not nice,” says Sibusiso Ndlovu, farmer.

The Department of Agriculture has encouraged livestock association members and livestock owners to apply for brand marks.

“The problem that we’re having is that we want to deal with the issue of the traceability of the animals that are stolen. Sometimes those animals, police are able to get them but it’s very difficult to trace those animals to a particular owner. That’s why we’re saying more and above the branding mark for an individual we’re introducing a new system now where in each district it will have its own mark so that we can trace,” says Agriculture MEC Super Zuma.

Police say they have put more emphasis in dealing with stock theft as it still remains the challenging category of crime in the province.

“A lot of work has been done so far by the police including putting together a task team that has attained notable success, especially in the Zululand district. What has been identified as a trend of late is that cattle are being stolen and slaughtered and then sold in the black market. Policing stock theft remains a challenge because many stock owners still fail to brand mark their livestock and that presents a challenge of non-reporting when stock is stolen,” says SAPS spokesperson Col Robert Netshiunda.

The recent quarterly crime statistics showed a slight decline in the number of stock theft cases.