Eastern Cape farmers are being bled dry by brazen stock thieves. While other crimes might have declined during the government’s lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a massive surge in stock theft across the province.
This is dealing a crippling blow to the already struggling agricultural sector.
In response to a parliamentary question, MEC Weziwe Tikana Gqothiwe, revealed that, from 27 March until 22 June, 5 636 animals were stolen. This included 4480 sheep, 700 goats, 411 cattle and 45 horses.
At an average of R2,500 per sheep, R1,200 per goat, R12,000 per head of cattle and R5,000 per horse, the estimated combined value of stock losses comes in at R17,197 million.
SEE: IQP 16 Q365
In contrast, there was a decrease in stock theft over the December and January holidays. This was ascribed to a multi-disciplinary approach, which included patrols by commercial and emerging farmers.
SEE: IQP 30 Q748
However, during the lockdown period, farm watch patrols were not allowed, and this could be one of the significant reasons for the spike of stock theft over this period.
Stock theft remains extremely high in the Eastern Cape. The recently released crime statistics show that, while nationally stock theft has declined by 4,2%, the Eastern Cape has seen an increase of 1%.
During the last financial year, a total of 6800 incidents were reported, with eight out of the top ten stations in the country for stock theft in the province, namely Sulenkama (1st) Mount Frere (2nd) Bityi (3rd) Katkop (4th) Mthatha (6th) Qumbu (7th) Maluti (8th) and Tsolo (10th).
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 to stock theft between 27 March and 22 June. The DA will be monitoring the extent to which these individuals are successfully prosecuted.
It is quite clear that the multi-disciplinary approach, involving the police, commercial and emerging farmers, meat and health inspectors as well as random roadblocks and community patrols, is the way to go.
The DA believes that the incorporation of new technologies, such as drone cameras with infrared and night vision, could also play a significant role in clamping down on stock thieves.
Our agricultural sector is already under severe pressure from the ongoing drought, with both emerging and commercial farmers taking strain. We need to stop the haemorrhaging of stock through theft if we are to save livelihoods and protect the province’s food security.
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