A new communication policy has been formulated to address the headaches of livestock theft more effectively in the Free State. The Free State Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO), National Wool Growers Association (NWGA) in the province and Free State Agriculture (FSA) have made it easier for their members to know which guidelines to follow when experiencing stock theft problems.

Each of them play a specific role in the fight against stock theft and it is important for farmers and others to know who to contact when. In this way communication will improve and problems can be addressed with greater success.

Role of the stock theft prevention forum

FSA, the RPO and NWGA in the Free State form the Free State Stock Theft Prevention Forum (FSSTPF), which helps put effective measures in place for livestock producers to prevent theft. Neville Raath, vice-chairperson of the Free State RPO, is the chairperson of the FSSTPF, while Herman Archer is chairperson of the Free State NWGA and Jakkals le Roux is the chairperson of FSA’s Rural Safety Committee.

“The forum, together with the South African Police Service (SAPS), South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and National Prosecuting Authority, addresses reactive stock theft reporting that affects its prevention and monitors and improves the successful prosecution of stock theft cases in courts within the criminal justice system,” says Raath. According to him, media awareness campaigns, training workshops to empower livestock producers on animal identification and guidelines for livestock theft are all part of the FSSTPF’s activities. It also includes interaction and visits to agricultural communities, as well as the ongoing monitoring of stock theft cases.

“The forum is also part of monthly meetings of the provincial rural safety priority committee and meetings every two months of the Border Safeguarding Forum with the SANDF,” he says. The latter discusses cross-border problems, challenges and shortcomings at the South African and Lesotho borders, as well as high crime areas and information on future operations.

Raath says the forum also aims to establish stock theft information centres at especially the top ten Free State stock theft stations, where all the aspects mentioned above are also decentralised. Here, the FSSTPF works closely with the MEC for Police, Roads and Transport’s Secretariat for Cross Border Safety to host imbizos among communal and emerging farmers. “Training and awareness about animal health, the marking of livestock and compliance with legislation with the SAPS then receive specific attention.”

Problems with investigations

The FSSTPF has compiled a pro forma form that farmers can use when they are not satisfied with the investigation of the SAPS, and especially stock theft units.

“The form must be completed in writing and the Free State RPO office makes enquiries to the SAPS’s provincial co-ordinator of stock theft units through Carine Annandale (vrystaatrpo@vodamail.co.za),” says Raath. Feedback is then obtained and passed on to the specific farmer.

Raath also states that it should be indicated on the form when urgent intervention is needed. An example is where the SAPS or the relevant stock theft unit has not yet visited the crime scene, and contact should be made with the SAPS.

Who to contact when

All incidents and information about the manifestation of livestock theft must be communicated to Dr Jane Buys, FSA’s Safety and Risk Analyst. “Incident information is used in the preparation of monthly safety reviews, which are also communicated to the Rural Safety Priority Committee, led by the FSSTPF,” she says. According to her, this involves identifying high crime areas, as well as requests for joint operations.

Buys has been appointed as the liaison on behalf of the RPO, NWGA and FSA with the media on stock theft statistics, increases or decreases, the organisation thereof, as well as the impact and extent of the problem in the Free State. She will also handle all enquiries for articles from academics, the media and others focusing on stock theft.

Raath was appointed as RPO Free State’s media spokesperson. He will communicate all information on high-profile cases of stock theft with the media. In addition, he can also be contacted about daily stock theft information in the province.

“These guidelines will be communicated to members of all the provincial organisations, including at FSA’s regional conferences, to inform them who to contact when facing challenges of stock theft and what the communication channels entail,” says Raath. – Press release, Free State Agriculture, RPO, NWGO