Farmers speaking to politicians about stock theft, rather than reporting it to the South African Police Service (SAPS), is not helping the fight against rural crime.
This was according to Willie Clack, chairperson of the National Stock Theft Prevention Forum, who was responding to calls for stronger action against stock thieves.
Werner Weber, provincial leader of the Freedom Front Plus in Mpumalanga and a farmer near Piet Retief, told Farmer’s Weekly that stock theft was out of control in the area between Belfast and Carolina.
“On my farm alone, 66 head of cattle were stolen in the past nine months,” he said.
Weber added that it seemed useless to report these incidences to the SAPS, as it did not result in concrete action.
“Mpumalanga’s farmers are shouting [about] stock theft, but this is not reflected in official SAPS data, because many farmers are not reporting [incidences of stock] theft,” Clack said.
“When the official figures aren’t to farmers’ liking, they will then run to political parties, which turns it into a political issue,” he added.
Kobus Visser, head of rural safety at Agri SA, said three years ago, a survey of the organisation’s members indicated that only 25% of farmers reported all crimes to the SAPS, while 52% only reported some crimes.
“The fact that farmers aren’t reporting all crimes […] means that official figures will never reflect the reality on the ground,” he said.
Visser added that nearly 35% of the farmers surveyed believed it was pointless to report crimes, and just over 19% felt the SAPS could not do anything about these incidences.
Almost 15% of farmers were disheartened due to a previous bad experience with the criminal justice system, 8% did not trust the SAPS, and just over 1% were fearful of reprisals or retaliation.
Clack added that unreported stock theft skewed official figures. “Over the past five years, an average of 9 100 head of cattle, 4 800 sheep and 4 500 goats were stolen in Mpumalanga every year.
“[In 2021], 7 800 head of cattle, 4 502 sheep and 5 150 goats were stolen. This would indicate that cattle and sheep thefts have decreased significantly, while there has been an increase in goat thefts in recent years,” he said.