- Two people believed to be part of a three-member stock theft gang have been killed in an act of apparent mob justice.
- Subsistence and commercial farmers in Stutterheim have been under siege from thieves for years.
- Stutterheim police station ranks among the top 30 for stock theft in the country.
Two men believed to be behind a spate of stock theft incidents in Stutterheim have been killed in an apparent mob justice attack in the farming town, with one of the men found burnt, police have said.
Police, who apprehended a third man on Sunday, were also forced to flee after the angry crowd pelted their vehicle with stones, damaging the rear window.
Eastern Cape provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga condemned the incident.
Provincial police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni said the incident took place at noon at Kubusi Township.
Tonjeni said the two men - 28 and 30 - were allegedly part of a three-member gang pursued by the police for suspected stolen livestock.
"Stock theft unit members responded to information about a taxi from Cape Town transporting stock thieves and stolen meat. On arrival, they found one male suspect, aged 28 years, from Strand in Cape Town, with two buckets full of raw meat," said Tonjeni.
The man was arrested.
Tonjeni said, after his arrest, the police learnt that his two accomplices had fled.
"Police apprehended the one male suspect, but later learnt that two suspects who ran away were chased and assaulted by the public. The bodies of the two men, aged 28 and 30 years, were found by police at Mngxuma, near Kubusi, at Stutterheim."
The 30-year-old's body was found burnt next to the Kubusi River.
He said two cases of murder have been opened and were currently under investigation. He said no arrests have been made.
Farmers in the small town in Amahlathi local municipality have been under siege for years, losing hundreds of heads of sheep and cattle annually to a well-organised stock theft syndicate.
A small-scale farmer, who asked not to be named, said the incident may break the back of a syndicate operating in the area.
Ntshinga said: "We understand your frustrations at the rise of stock theft and, as the police management, we don't take stock theft lightly as it includes theft of livelihoods to people who are subsistence and commercial farmers.
"Our stock theft units throughout the province are working tirelessly to fight the rise of stock theft and we are hopeful that, with the public's support, our efforts will be fruitful.
"We have to stop buying stolen meat from thieves as well as to work closely with police. Apprehend anyone suspected of crime and hand over to the police for the rule of law to take its course.
"Every suspect deserves to have a day in court and be able to be given a chance to prove their innocence before a magistrate. We appeal to the public to exercise caution, restraint and work with and through the law," she pleaded.
Stutterheim police station ranks among the top 30 with the highest number of stock theft cases in the country as announced in Police Minister Bheki Cele's annual crime statistics report.
In 2019, 132 cases of stock theft were opened.
Tonjeni said the arrested man was charged for possession of suspected stolen meat and was expected to appear in court soon.