Consequences of livestock analysed

A study conducted in the Amathole District in the Eastern Cape by Qaqambile Pasiwe of the SAPS, Mike Earl-Taylor and Akhona Sinefu, both from the University of Fort Hare, focused on some unintended consequences of stock theft from the perspectives of both stock-theft victims as well as law enforcement officials.

The study included station commanders; stock-theft investigators; stock-theft unit officers; and rural security officers.

As far as the impact of stock-theft is concerned it was found that victims’ health and wellbeing were affected, since most victims were old people; and the cross-cultural constant factor is social respect. Furthermore, the findings from the victims made it clear that their livestock is stolen from their kraals within the homestead and from their grazing veld. The study also established that there were corrupt police officers who worked (in cahoots) with stock thieves. Findings also revealed that young people were as equally involved as their adult counterparts in stock theft.

The study also found that stock thieves were not only involved with the theft of livestock, but perpetrated several other crimes, such as theft. The reason being that when they are under the influence of drugs, they do not have self-control and later they do not recall what they did. Furthermore, the study established that:

  • as soon as suspects were released by courts, they committed further (stock theft) crimes against victims
  • there was poor investigation by STUs; and
  • unattended livestock and poor fencing at grazing camps contributed to the incidence of stock theft.

The police officers who participated in this study stated that they received new dockets about three times a week. It was also indicated that most incidents were seasonal and that more incidents were recorded during the graduation seasons of May and September and during June and December – the initiation schools and holidays/school vacation times. It was established that it took an average of 30 minutes to arrive at a crime scene in the Alice district. In terms of the SAPS National Instruction (NI) 3 of 2011, the Detective Service Centre is responsible for ensuring that all crime scenes are immediately visited, and that proper investigation and enquiries are conducted on, and in, the immediate vicinity of the crime scene.

Since stock theft is a specialised field, co-ordination of information between the commander of the stock-theft unit and the Detective Service Centre (Crime Office) is essential. When crime is committed, in most instances, a witness will be the first to report the incident to the police. A uniformed officer from the station will respond to the call and attend to the crime, and, on request, a detective will attend to the crime scene.

Another major finding was that there were stock-theft groups operating within the area, but that these were not being addressed (by the police). This indicates an entrenched problem in the community, where known criminals continue to walk in the streets and commit more crimes.

The Rural Safety Strategy (RSS) of the SAPS is ineffective. The success of the strategy depends on the involvement of all rural environment role players. It is essential that there are good relations and communication among police officials, who are working with stock theft. The SAPS should take responsibility for the involvement of role players in Alice to ensure a safe and secure rural environment.

The study revealed that there are certain challenges regarding the policing of stock theft in Alice. These challenges include:

  • a shortage of manpower at the Alice STU;
  • the involvement of some police officials in stock theft;
  • the police benefiting from stock theft and being part of the problem; 
  • livestock owners not looking after their livestock;
  • inexperienced investigators who cannot solve cases; and
  • lack of co-ordination between the STU and the Provincial Office to address challenges experienced by the office.

Based on the findings, the following strategies are recommended to curtail the continued re-occurrence of stock theft, namely the creation of an organised unit; an increase in manpower at the Alice STU; the introduction of integrity vetting units within the detective environment to monitor lifestyle audits; and risk assessments of stock theft investigators (STIs).