Farmer catches metal thieves, but police won’t open case

2008-10-12 00:00

Police were reluctant to open a case at the weekend against the occupants of a bakkie who were “caught red-handed” on private land with a bakkie-load of metal, including a number of fencing standards.

Local organic farmer Nora Choveaux said she was advised by Alexandra Road police that it is “no use” laying a charge unless she can prove ownership of each individual item of metal.

As the metal was rusted and unmarked, she had been unable to do so and was forced to return the load to the three who were found in possession of it.

Choveaux said she had also asked police whether she could at least lay a charge of trespassing against the alleged intruders, but was told she could not as her land is not completely fenced.

An Inspector Ndlovu allegedly told Choveaux that she has the “wrong attitude” and is likely to “end up getting shot” if she persists in her attempts to make a case.

The occupants of the bakkie spoke briefly to The Witness outside Alexandra Road police station and admitted that they planned to sell the load to a scrap metal merchant, expecting to get “about R300 or R400” for it.

The driver of the bakkie, who identified himself to The Witness as C.N. Mkhize, said his passengers — a man and a woman — hired him on Saturday morning to collect a load of scrap metal.

Mkhize said he operates a hire service with his bakkie and frequently collects metal for people. He charges R180 for the service.

He said he was “shown where to go” by his passengers, and they began to collect metal from around 6.45 am. He confirmed they “drove from place to place” collecting the items.

The man who allegedly hired Mkhize told The Witness his name is Sibongiseni Majola. He confirmed that he is unemployed and that he intended to sell the metal.

Asked how much he would get for the load he shrugged and replied; “Maybe R300 … R400, I don’t know.”

Asked if he believed he is legally entitled to the metal and where he’d got it from, he responded that he was “in a rush” and had to leave as the bakkie was waiting for him.

Choveaux and her partner, Rob Symons, said that this is the fourth time recently that people were spotted on the farm removing metal, and each incident was reported to the police.

They said police responded promptly to each complaint, but could not catch the thieves.

On Saturday morning, a family member came across the laden bakkie while out jogging, confronted the occupants and noted its registration number. She was allegedly told the occupants thought they were on vacant land.

Choveaux and Symons set out to find the vehicle by visiting various scrap metal dealers. They came across the bakkie at an unobtrusive scrap metal yard off Murray Road, and called the police.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said it was “unacceptable” for police to decline to register a case. “It is the mandate of the SA Police Service to investigate matters and establish who the culprits are.”

He added that the circumstances of this incident will be investigated and “if necessary, departmental steps will be taken”.

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