Private initiative to combat stock theft expanded

Stock theft in the Free State is increasingly growing into a finely planned and sophisticated crime, according to Peet Swanepoel, the provincial coordinator of the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSIRA).

Private initiative to combat stock theft expanded
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He said one of the indicators was the fact that where a relatively small numbers of animals was stolen in the past, the numbers of stolen animals had gone up to, for instance, 100 sheep or more at a time.

“Stock thievery is being organised and executed more and more by well-organised syndicates. In the Free State, we’ve come across stock thieves carrying out their operations hundreds of kilometres from their home base. In one case, cattle were stolen in Vanstadensrus in the Free State, earmarked to be sold in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni,” he told Farmer’s Weekly.

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The perpetrators were mainly making use of the N1 and N3 national routes to transport stolen animals that had been taken in the Free State, to be sold.

Swanepoel also expressed concern about the use of firearms during stock-theft operations. “Livestock herdsman are particularly exposed to the often-armed robbers and in a recent case, a herder was robbed and killed by robbers.”

In an attempt to curb the scourge of stock theft in the province, Free State Agriculture (FSA) recently facilitated the training of 16 additional PSIRA-registered private investigators in the province.

According to Swanepoel, the training followed requests by several Free State farming communities where livestock theft had reached critical levels. In July 2024, FSA announced that stock theft in the Free State was so out of control that farmers were left with no choice but to establish their own private livestock theft investigation initiative.

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The organisation consequently made R1 million available for the establishment and roll-out of the initiative at the time. FSA said in a statement the latest batch of qualified investigators brought the total to 21.

“The South African Police Service’s [SAPS] shortage of manpower, vehicles and equipment made it exceedingly difficult to combat the criminals and there is a need for a community initiative in order to turn the downwards spiral around. Hence the initiative to train private agents,” said Swanepoel.

The accomplishments achieved between the initially trained investigators and SAPS in some of the high-crime areas in the province proved to be so successful that it highlighted a need for additional investigators.

Investigators from Steynsrus, Bultfontein, Jacobsdal, Marquard, Reddersburg and Bloemfontein received training during the latest session.

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Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.