WATCH | 'They were armed to the teeth': Small-scale farmer living in fear of livestock thieves

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  • A cattle farmer is living in fear after thieves stole his cattle twice this year.
  • On a third occasion, his home was shot at multiple times.
  • He alleged that police were not helpful.

A 44-year-old small-scale farmer who lost 15 cows and 70 sheep through livestock theft, says thieves who were "armed to the teeth" with AK47s terrorised him on his farm in the south of Johannesburg.

According to the man, who declined to be identified for safety reasons, he has been hit three times since April, but he says "this time, I am ready".

He started cattle farming when he was 30, but said farm-related crimes derailed his progress and love for agriculture.

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To make matters worse, the police hadn't provided him with any help, he alleged.

He accused Orange Farm police and the Gauteng Stock Theft Unit of failing to arrest those who steal his livestock.

According to the man, he survived a shooting involving a gang of men who wielded rifles. His house and a tree outside it were riddled with bullets and some even hit the bathtub, a wall, a door and a kitchen window.

Bullet hole in window
A bullet hole left after armed men attempted to rob a farm in Gauteng.
News24 PHOTO: Ntwaagae Seleka/News24
Big bullet hole in bathroom wall
Bullet holes left after armed men attempted to rob a farm in Gauteng.
News24 PHOTO: Ntwaagae Seleka/News24

"They first came on 26 April. They stole 14 of my cows. The stolen cattle were Brahman and Bonsmara breeds. My cattle were in a kraal outside my yard. I learnt that my stolen cattle were kept on a chicken farm in Zuurbekom. I asked the Orange Farm police officers to accompany me there. They came up with stories. 

"They (the police) promised to come back to me. They never did. That case disappeared. A week and a half later, I received an SMS that [stated] the case had been closed," he said.

He then relocated his kraal, but seven weeks later, thieves struck again.

"They came back on 16 June. They unlocked the gate and left with my 25 cows. I was awoken by my son saying something had happened. I then noticed that they were there. I managed to track my cattle down. I recovered 24 of them around the Waterpan area, about 10 kilometres from my farm. One cow was missing. My cattle were headed to Zuurbekom."

The farmer said he found his cattle abandoned on the road.

READ | 'Our country has turned against honest citizens' - farmers who lost livelihood to cattle theft

After the second theft, he started monitoring the gaps between the incidents.

"On 3 August, they came for the third time. This time they came for real. They were armed to the teeth. My son saw eight men, some carrying rifles, forcefully entering my property. He alerted me. They first shot my sensor with an AK-47. 

"They entered the yard and randomly opened fire at my house. I was forced to return fire. They fled without taking my cattle. They were carrying poison to feed my dogs," he said.

The farmer phoned the police who responded swiftly. He added that the officers were on patrol in the area at the time.

"Those officers helped us. Their forensic colleagues collected spent AK-47 cartridges. On 8 August, an Orange Farm policeman came and made me fill out a form. The following day, I received an SMS [stating] that my case had been closed," he said.

Bullet holes in wall
Bullet holes left after heavily armed men attempted to rob a farm in Gauteng.
News24 PHOTO: Ntwaagae Seleka/News24
Large bullet hole in drywall
A bullet hole left after armed men attempted to rob a farm in Gauteng.
News24 PHOTO: Ntwaagae Seleka/News24

The man said a discovery police made at a chicken farm in Zuurbekom, west of Johannesburg, confirmed his suspicions that the premises was used as a hideout for stolen livestock.

Police raided the farm on Sunday and found more than 400 allegedly stolen cattle inside a chicken run.

The farm owner claimed he leased the property from the Gauteng government and that his son and another man had brought the cattle to his chicken farm.

He claimed he had no knowledge of how the animals arrived at his property and that he saw the animals on Friday morning. 

At the time, there were more than 700, he told police.

Some cows had been transferred to the Eastern Cape, North West and KwaZulu-Natal in trucks, News24 was told.

The man's son, aged 35, and his 80-year-old alleged accomplice were arrested for business robbery and possession of suspected stolen livestock. 

Bullet holes in corrugated iron roofing
Bullet holes left after armed men attempted to rob a farm in Gauteng.
Ntwaagae Seleka

"When I heard that stolen cattle were found at that chicken farm I had been long suspecting, I swiftly drove there. We have complained to the police for a long time about that chicken farm. They refused to heed our plea, this is the time to talk. We are suffering as farmers. We don't have an ear that will listen to us. I have lost 15 cows and 70 sheep. All my cases don't come to light. The police don't update me about the progress of my case."

READ | Hundreds of stolen cattle recovered as police crack down on suspected syndicate in Joburg

"On Sunday, a suspicious white minibus taxi turned near my gate about eight times. I called the Orange Farm police station and they didn't come. The police claimed they were changing shifts. They later claimed they didn't have petrol to come to my farm," he said.

The man said he was worried for his family's safety.

Gauteng police spokesperson, Colonel Dimakatso Sello said: "If the complainant is not happy or satisfied with the service received from the local police, he is urged to lay a formal complaint with the station commander, district commander or report [it via] the Gauteng Service Complaints Centre."

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