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Stock Theft Crackdown

23 men linked to KZN syndicates arrested

The Witness
16 Jan 2018
CHELSEA PIETERSE • chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

IN a major breakthrough in the fight against stock theft in the province a local security company and police have arrested 23 men linked to several syndicates.

The gangs had been stealing cattle and sheep from farms and rural communities in the Midlands area. Bulwer, Ixopo, Mooi River and Boston were “hot spots” for stock theft.

Magma Security and Investigations director Shaheen Suleiman said his company’s investigation started after a client in Ixopo reported that nine pregnant dairy cows had been slaughtered.

“Although stock theft has been an … issue for a long time, the perpetrators made the mistake of targeting one of our clients, which led us to form a task team with members of the police,” said Suleiman.

“Stock theft is a huge business,” he explained.

The syndicates either butchered the cattle and sold the meat or stole them to be sold for slaughter at weddings, funerals and sometimes for lobola.

“Each syndicate is made up of between three to five people. The syndicates who slaughter the stolen cattle will often have a scout who watches the movements of the cattle and alerts the thieves,” said Suleiman.

“The syndicate [drives] the cow into a nearby forest where they cut its ham string, making it fall to the ground. [They] then kill it by hitting it over the head with an axe. It is absolutely horrific”.

Suleiman said the butchered animals were sold to small butcheries, hostels and even catering companies.

He said the syndicates working with live cattle would crowd three or four cows into the back of a van and sell them for about R4 000 each. Cattle are usually sold for between R8 000 and R10 000.

“The demand is huge and stock theft is being reported almost every week. If nine cattle are slaughtered this morning, they would all be sold by the afternoon.

“It is a big business because it is easy money for the syndicates and the buyers find it cheaper.”

Sulieman said among those most affected were the subsistence farmers in rural areas.

“These cattle are their livelihood, and are often all they have.”

An Ixopo farmer who asked not to be named said the area had lost 80 animals to stock theft in just three weeks.

“It is a major industry and it severely affects the community, whether it be commercial farmers or subsistence farmers.”

Suleiman urged people to brand their cattle and to count them often.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese confirmed the successes of Magma and the SAPS Pietermaritzburg Stock Theft Unit. Investigations are ongoing.