By Masilo Malakwane
QWAQWA – Emerging farmers in the eastern Free State facing challenges of high levels of stock theft and dwindling grazeland space have decried that they call ‘the degrading treatment’ meted out by police stations in rural areas.
Anti-Stock Theft patrollers, Ipopeng Dihwai chairperson Lephuthing Padi claims that the thieves who target and steal their livestock, particularly in Tseseng and Makwane areas, work in cahoots with members of the SAPS.
Padi said they have reported their missing livestock several times and opened cases at the police station, but with no success.
“When we go to police stations to open dockets, we are told many stories and interrogated as if we know who the perpetrators are. We need your intervention MEC,” said Padi.
He was among 200 owners and Anti-Stock Theft patrollers who poured out their grievances in a meeting with MEC for Police, Roads and Traffic, William Bulwane on Tuesday this at Phuthaditjhaba police station.
Bulwane’s visit to Maluti-a-Phofung was in response to a call to address challenges affecting the farming community and livestock owners across the province, and to raise awareness on rural safety issues.
He urged the farming community not to be despondent and think that government is doing nothing about their situation.
“We have received and acknowledged your grievances and we are aware of the alarming cases of stock-theft. I want to assure you that we are working closely with stock theft units and other stakeholders to ensure we root out stock theft in this province.”
Bulwane also urged livestock owners to desist from employing Lesotho nationals with no paperwork as herd boys in the country as they pose a threat when they commit crime.
Another stock owner, Mokoena Hloai of Ke Llela Makgulo Forum, indicated that there is no single solution tailor-made to fight against this crime. He told The Guard that the scourge is more rampant in rural areas.
“This is because it is not tackled by committed police officials who do drink while on duty. When you call for help at Tseseng police station, they don’t answer; when you go there to seek help, they tell you that they don’t have cars. I have been sitting with a bunch of useless dockets some of which have even been closed, that detail exactly how my cattle were stolen in broad daylight while at a cattle post. Justice has not been done,” said Mokoena.
For his part, Acting Provincial Commissioner Major General Solomon Lesia said more than 50 police officials in the anti-stock-theft unit were expelled last year alone as a result of their involvement in corrupt activities relating to stock-theft.