Witvlei farmers: The legal system is failing us
New wave of livestock and game thefts
26 October 2021 | Crime
Farmers in the Witvlei area are suffering under a spate of livestock and game thefts, and they say the legal system is failing to provide any protection to them or their property.
Jürgen Matthaei, chairman of the Nossob Crime Prevention Forum (NCPF), says that over the past three to four weeks, much game and especially cattle has been stolen, with at least six Witvlei farmers reporting losses at the forum.
“The thieves are also becoming more sophisticated and are now entering farms with horses. Otherwise, stolen cattle are driven away by lorries,” Matthaei told this publication. “At the same time, the same livestock and game thieves are repeatedly caught and simply released on bail, despite the fact that many similar cases are pending against them. The cases are just never settled,” a disheartened Matthaei said.
He says farmers in the area suspect a specific person who was re-released on bail about six weeks ago, is behind the latest wave of theft. “It’s as if they are taking revenge.”
Matthaei said cattle thieves chased to cows – belonging to Wilfried Pack, who farms on the farm Grünental near Witvlei – into a manga. “They must have been disturbed while they were cutting off the first one's throat. They just left her and fled. The cow's hoofs were pulled through the manga's poles, she could not get loose and the foxes started eating her alive,”Matthaei said. Farm workers only came across this scene last Monday.
Matthaei says during the crime prevention forum's patrols, they also came across a poached waterbuck on the back of a vehicle last Tuesday. Thereafter, two suspects were arrested for possession of protected game.
“Our farmers are disheartened,” Matthaei says. He referred to farmers from the Otjiwarongo area who had started a petition against granting habitual criminals bail when it comes to livestock and game theft, and that the cars with which they commit the crimes should be declared forfeited.”
Two other Witvlei farmers who have suffered losses are Elia Emvula who lost a calf, and Alfred Kamupingene who is missing four calves.
Police themselves involved
“I'm so frustrated, I've given up,” Kamupingene said, whose steer was recently stabbed with an assegai by thieves on horseback. He said he took two police officers to a scene in December where one of his heifers was slaughtered, only to find out later that one of the policemen was involved in the slaughter of his cattle.
“The carcass was found in this man's car. The police are hopeless. I have had so many losses over the years. I wanted to take care of my family with the money I earn from my livestock, but someone else walks away with what’s mine. If I catch someone on my farm stealing livestock, I will be the one to sleep in jail,” he said.
Ulrike Hart, who has lost two heifers and a gemsbok in the past month to poachers, says that the thieves are moving around with horses. “The horses roam freely at Witvlei. So it’s easy to take any horse and enter your farm. You hear and therefore see nothing, they cut the fences, load the slaughtered or poached animal on horseback and take it to the main road, from where it is driven away,” she said.
Hart, who is closely involved in the crime-fighting forum, says high-profile businessmen are involved in the theft in the area. “Therefore their motives have nothing to do with hunger.”
She also believes they are being failed by the legal system. “If you are out on bail and commit a crime again, should it not be suspended and you arrested? It does not happen!”
Thunis Cocklin, another Witvlei farmer, lost 16 cattle between 24 September and 4 October. He says this case is still being investigated, but so far this year, 41 of his cattle have already been stolen. “My opinion is that the justice system has completely let us down.”
Cocklin says the past two to three years have been particularly bad for farmers due to livestock and game theft.