Police Minister Bheki Cele has undertaken to investigate the allegations of police involvement in the livestock theft that plague farmers in the eastern Free State. This was according to Herkie Viljoen, chairperson of the Bethlehem Agriculture Union and Security organisation.
Cele and state security minister, Ayanda Dlodlo, met with a group of about 60 farmers in the Bethlehem district on Tuesday, 13 October to discuss their concerns about stock theft syndicates operating in the area, and the alleged involvement of corrupt police officials in the crimes.
The meeting followed the violent protest last week at the Senekal Magistrate’s Court during the appearance of two alleged livestock thieves accused of killing farm manager Brendin Horner in the Paul Roux district.
During the meeting, a detailed report was handed over to Cele, in which details about stock theft syndicates and alleged police involvement were set out. Viljoen said Cele promised that he would return with an investigation team within 21 days to look into the matters raised by the farmers in the report.
“In the meantime, we will compile all the necessary information, such as case numbers and incidents, to assist the investigation team. We do not want to attack the police; we want to fight against corrupt people who deprive us of our right to farm in peace,” Viljoen stressed.
He said farmers in the eastern Free State region were suffering losses of more than R1 million every month due to stock theft.
Tommie Esterhuyse, chairperson of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence for Rural Safety, told Farmer’s Weekly that the feedback from farmers after the meeting was positive, and that they expressed their satisfaction with the progress made to date following the murder of Horner.
“I am cautiously optimistic to say that the progress we can expect will meet the expectations of the agricultural community,” Esterhuyse said.