Stock theft problems mulled over
Cape Town - Free State farmers are contributing to South Africa's massive stock theft problem by renting winter grazing areas to Lesotho herdsmen, MPs heard on Wednesday.
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) deputy director general Kgabi Mogajane told the portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries that it had been found that the herdsmen who rented the land from farmers in the winter months were returning to Lesotho with "additional animals.
"Farmers should take some responsibility for the problem," she said.
"In the winter months some of them rent out grazing land to people from Lesotho. We had found that when these people go back to Lesotho they go back with additional animals."
Mogajane said the department was in talks with authorities in Lesotho to find a solution to the problem.
"We have officials on the border who are mending border gates and fences, but thieves don't go through gates. They go to areas not guarded at all.
"We have been talking to Lesotho. Because of the mountainous terrain and challenges we do not have a fence.
"The international fence there now is a livestock disease fence.
"We are talking with the Border Management Agency to make sure they check this particular function. At the moment there is a free movement of animals between South Africa and Lesotho. "
DA MP Lourie Bosman told the committee how stock theft, which is estimated to cause losses of around R360m a year, had "ruined" his farming business in Ermelo.
"In the last two or three years I've lost 400 to 500 sheep a year through stock theft.
"People are organised out there. They do it in systems. They slaughter loads of sheep per one theft."
He said the thief in his case had turned out to be a councillor from Ermelo.
"In her back yard she had a container with all the slaughtering equipment with cooling systems and whatever you can think of.
"When we caught her with the last load, the security firm in Ermelo was involved. They were going out with a security van, loading the sheep, taking it to the councillor's yard and slaughtering it. They would then take it to the butcheries.
"Stock theft has absolute negative consequences to all industry in South Africa, but mainly to the small scale farmers.
"If they have three or four animals, they can lose their whole herd in one theft."