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KZN farmers battle as stock theft spikes

The Mercury

5 Nov 2019

SAKHISENI NXUMALO

Thieves targeting livestock in rural areas

EMERGING farmers in KwaZulu-Natal are considering whether to leave the farming industry due to the sharp rise in stock theft in the province.

 

KZN African Farmer’s Association of SA provincial secretary Thube Zondi said that the thieves were targeting livestock owners in the province, especially those in the rural areas.

 

Zondi alleged that most of the stolen cattle were being killed and the meat was being sold to local township butchers, street vendors, and other informal meat sellers.

 

He said that some farmers were despondent and were thinking of leaving the industry.

 

He said the association was focused on closing the gap between commercial farmers and emerging farmers so that small-scale farmers could participate in the red meat economy.

 

However, he said stock theft was having a severe impact on farmers and he called on law enforcement to track down the syndicates that were targeting the farmers.

 

The National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) said that the theft of farm animals was under-estimated and many cases went unreported.

Senior inspector Grace de Lange, the manager of the NSPCA’s Farm Animal Protection Unit, said that in some of the incidents the animals suffered horrible deaths.

 

“Animals are killed in the most inhumane manner, which includes cutting the tendons in the back legs to immobilise them, and then the meat is taken and the animal is left alive to die a terrible death,” said De Lange.

 

“When we become aware of such cases, we work closely with the relevant stock theft units and add cruelty charges to the theft charges.

 

“Animal abuse is a criminal offence. All meat that’s being sold for consumption must be slaughtered at a registered abattoir,” she said.

 

She added that it was of the utmost importance that owners insist that further charges be added to charge sheets in terms of the relevant legislation.

 

In a recent incident, a 33-year-old suspect was arrested after he failed to give a satisfactory explanation as to where he got meat found in his bakkie in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg, on Friday.

 

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the vehicle was stopped while the driver was trying to hide it at a house.

 

“Upon searching the vehicle, it was discovered that it was loaded with meat. The man was charged with possession of stolen stock,” said Gwala.

 

The stock owner, Sabelo Mbatha, said: “When I got to the police station, I was heartbroken when I saw that the brand mark on the cattle was mine. Eight cattle were butchered by the suspects, and the other six have yet to be found.”

 

He alleged that the thieves cut the cattle’s Achilles tendon muscles before butchering them. He said that since the incident, he had trouble sleeping.

 

“If it wasn’t for love, I would quit farming. I sat alone in the kraal and that’s when it hit me, that is when I felt the pain and cried. I have lost a lot due to this,” Mbatha said.