Difficulty in proving ownership in stock theft cases

Stock theft has stripped the South African agricultural economy of R430 million during the 2011/2012 period, said the chairman of the National Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF), Dave Ford.

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According to Ford, goats to the value of R42 million, sheep worth R92 million and cattle to the value of R295 million were stolen in this period. He called it a scourge that threatened both commercial and emerging farmers. The increase in stock theft, he said, could not be attributed only to ineffectiveness of the SAPS’ Stock Theft Units, but also to the non-compliance by industry role-players who did not ensure that livestock were properly identified.

“Livestock buyers, such as farmers, speculators, stock-auctions, feedlots and abattoirs can be, or are unknowingly, recipients of stolen livestock and thereby transgressing the law and are liable for a fine or prosecution. “The Animal Identification Act 6 of 2002, makes provision for the compulsory marking of livestock and the Stock Theft Act 57 of 1959 controls the movement of livestock. Both these Acts have been put in place to support the industry and SAPS to combat stock theft and make it easier to recover stolen livestock.

“It appears that a large part of the livestock trade does not comply by the provisions of these Acts. The Red Meat Industry Forum encourages its member organisations to comply with these Acts,” said Ford. Brigadier Vinesh Singh of the Stock Theft Unit head office in Pretoria said many stock theft court cases were unsuccessful because of disputes regarding the positive identification of stolen livestock and the ability to prove ownership.

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“If an animal is marked with a registered brand or tattoo, disputes will be avoided,” he added. Ford said the RMIF urgently requested that all livestock owners registered a unique brand mark in their name and to apply it to all livestock in their possession in the prescribed manner as described in the Animal Identification Act 6 and that the Document of Identification, as well as the Stock Removal Certificate be completed and submitted with all transactions.

“All livestock buyers, auctioneers, feedlots and abattoirs have to establish livestock ownership and refuse to take ownership of livestock that are not marked or where the necessary documents and certificates are not supplied and these documents be kept on record for 12 months. “The RMIF also calls on its member organisations to urgently play an active role in stock theft prevention and requests that the Stock Theft Units strictly apply the Animal Identification Act and the Stock Theft Act to all buyers of livestock as from 1 January 2013 with zero tolerance as this will reduce the negative effect on the livestock industry.

The chairman of the Eastern Cape Red Meat Producers Organisation (ECRPO), Dr Pieter Prinsloo, said the organisation and the stock theft forums in all the provinces have already been working hard to convince livestock owners of the importance of the branding and tattooing of stock.

“The police are complaining that the marks are not always legible and we are currently investigating alternate measures for the branding of livestock. We, as livestock owners have a responsibility towards the application of the relevant legislation and we have requested the police to act strongly against perpetrators,” Prinsloo said.