Eastern Cape police close in on stock thieves

20 stolen sheep were found back in Bityi just outside Mthatha. They are transported in trucks, cars or minibuses
20 stolen sheep were found back in Bityi just outside Mthatha. They are transported in trucks, cars or minibuses
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More than 150 stolen sheep and cattle have been recovered by Eastern Cape police in a series of operations following the theft of livestock which are mostly spirited away from farms in trucks and bakkies after fences have been cut.

Since Sunday morning, police have recovered 140 sheep and 17 cattle across the province.

The busts have prompted the province’s top cop to warn that those convicted of buying and selling stolen animals that they will be jailed.

According to the latest crime figures, 6,217 cases of stock theft were reported in the Eastern Cape between April 2017 and March 2018.

The figures show that this is the highest number of cases in the province since 2014.

The latest incident happened on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth when 17 cattle were stolen from a farm along Mission Road in Greenbushes.

Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said the theft had happened between March 13 and 16.

“The owner spent days searching for the cattle on the farm before realising that they had been stolen,” she said.

“This led to the case being opened and investigations launched.”

A joint operation between Kabega Park detectives and the Uitenhage stock theft unit led to the cattle being tracked to the Zandvlakte farm, Paterson.

“A tip-off on the animals’ location was received and they were located shortly after 11pm on Monday. All the ear tags had been removed by the thieves.

“It is suspected a truck was used to load and transport the animals during the theft.

“Investigations are under way and arrests are expected to be made soon.” Naidu said the total value of the 17 stolen cattle was about R120,000.

“It is believed that the theft took place over a series of days, at night,” she said.

Naidu said several of the incidents occurred at night and involved trucks or bakkies being used to transport the stock.

“In most cases, the fences are cut and the cattle or sheep are ushered out of the kraal into the bakkie or truck.

“In other cases, mostly involving smaller animals like pigs and sheep, the animals are caught and their legs tied up before being loaded into a car, minibus or bakkie,” she said.

“In several cases, the animals are slaughtered on the scene and the entire carcass or parts of the carcass stolen.”

During another operation in Bityi, outside Mthatha, on Monday night, police found 20 sheep that had been stolen from a farm in Dutywa.

In a joint operation between the Aliwal North and Komani stock theft units on Monday night, 72 sheep, in addition to six lambs, were recovered on a farm in the region.

The farm owner, 61, was arrested and is due to appear in the Venterstad Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

Police spokesperson Captain Kaya Tonjeni said the recovery came after 89 sheep were stolen last weekend from Sterkstroom.

Tonjeni said that when the suspect was released from court, he would be rearrested for another case of stock theft in the Sterkstroom area.

On Sunday, Komani police arrested six suspected stock thieves and recovered 48 sheep.

On Monday, a former police captain, Ndzima Dweba, 55, was convicted in the Maclear Magistrate’s Court of three counts of stock theft.

Dweba’s arrest came after an incident in May 2012 when he went to the Pakamani Project farm, 10km outside Ugie, and stole 16 sheep and nine goats using a police vehicle.

Dweba is due to be sentenced in July.

Provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga called the recoveries and arrests a breakthrough.

She encouraged stock owners to be vigilant and extra wary of stock thieves.

Ntshinga warned that those buying and selling stolen animals would be prosecuted.

“Your actions are providing a market for this abhorred trade and police will have no option but to arrest the buyer and the seller.”