Thieves go 'Xmas shopping'

2006-11-23 12:25
Middelburg - With Christmas around the corner, well-organised stock thieves are plundering flocks of sheep, goats and herds of cattle belonging to villagers and farmers in Mpumalanga.

Police confirm there had been a dramatic increase in stock theft over the past month. Not even small subsistence farmers are spared.

"Stock theft is a problem right through the year, but we have seen a definite increase over the past month. And, it is getting worse the nearer we get to Christmas," said provincial police spokesperson, superintendent Malcolm Mokomene. "The syndicates are obviously stocking up for the festive season, when everyone spends more on food to celebrate Christmas and New Year."

The most recent victims include two subsistence farmers in the Highveld. Six cattle were stolen from a villager at Vaalbank and eight goats were stolen from a Tweefontein farmer on Tuesday.

Neither farmer has insurance, and the livestock is often the only source of wealth or savings for subsistence farmers.

"This kind of theft is a particularly hard blow for small farmers. It can wipe out all their savings, and even endanger their business, because many of them fatten their animals for sale at Christmas time," said Mokomene.

"When the animals are stolen before they can sell them, it means that their families will starve over the festive season."

The stock theft syndicates are usually well organised gangs, who butcher the animals and sell the meat at pension and social grant payout point, as well as taxi ranks and railway stations.

"We've noticed that the syndicates seem to target farmers who don't have herders guarding their animals. They go for easy targets. We therefore advise farmers to always employ herders as a first line of defence," Mokomene says.

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