There has been a “massive surge” in stock theft in the Eastern Cape this year.
Figures provided by transport, safety and liaison MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe to DA MPL Bobby Stevenson in a written reply show that from March 27 to June 22, 5,636 animals were stolen.
This number included 4,480 sheep, 700 goats, 411 cattle and 45 horses.
At an average of R2,500 a sheep, R1,200 a goat, R12,000 per head of cattle and R5,000 per horse, the estimated combined value of stock losses is R17,2m.
“In contrast, there was a decrease in stock theft over the December and January holidays.
“This was ascribed to a multidisciplinary approach, which included patrols by commercial and emerging farmers,” Stevenson said.
“However, during lockdown farm watch patrols were not allowed, and this could be one of the significant reasons for the spike of stock theft over this period.”
He said stock theft remained “extremely high” in the Eastern Cape.
Recently released crime statistics show that, while nationally stock theft has declined by 4.2%, the Eastern Cape has seen an increase of 1%.
“There have been some positive developments, which include the allocation of 33 new vehicles to the stock theft units in the province.
“We also welcome the arrest of 228 individuals in connection [with] stock theft between March 27 and June 22.
“The DA will be monitoring the extent to which these individuals are successfully prosecuted.”
Farmers, meanwhile, have welcomed this week’s sentencing of two men to five years behind bars for stealing 22 sheep in April 2019.
Eastern Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga said the sentence would serve as a deterrent to other stock thieves while motivating police to work hard to fight the crime.
Thandisizwe Fikizolo, 31, and Elmond Mshwayi, 33, were each sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for three counts of being in possession of suspected stolen stock.
But though they welcomed the sentencing, Eastern Cape farmers still believe stock theft in South Africa’s rural villages is a major concern.
They have pleaded with the government to redirect resources to stop the theft of stock.
Andrew Lifman, whose 40 sheep were stolen in 2019 and never recovered, said stock thieves should “rot in jail”.
“People who steal deserve to be in jail for a longer time.
“The sentence proves we are heading in the right direction.
“The sentencing of two people is the tip of the iceberg because we know there are many people behind the scenes who were working with the two,” Lifman said.
“We work hard to provide for our families.
“Do the thieves know that their actions could result in loss of jobs and people will starve?”