WARNING: This article contains graphic images
A livestock farmer from Cathcart in the Eastern Cape made a grisly discovery on Tuesday morning when he found that 18 of his sheep had been killed, gutted and hung on a barbed wire fence.
Two other sheep were still alive, but the tendons on their back legs had been hacked off with pangas to prevent them from running away.
Tweeddale Farm owner Richard Armstrong told News24 that he suspected something had gone wrong, causing the thieves to flee and leave the carcasses and meat behind.
“They gutted them and took out the intestines. They were obviously disturbed, because otherwise they wouldn’t have left the carcasses.
“Some people are saying it was an act of revenge, but I have no reason to think so. I have a good relationship with my staff. This is the work of a syndicate that is operating in the area.”
Armstrong said he suspected the thieves’ pick-up vehicle didn’t arrive, forcing them to leave everything behind.
“It’s horrific,” says Armstrong. “But the worst is that this sort of thing happens on a weekly basis. It’s not the first time I’ve been affected. I had 20 sheep stolen in May. But [stock theft] happens along the N6 on a weekly basis. It’s an ongoing problem. We fear it’s going to get worse as we get closer to the festive season.”
Armstrong says, while farmers are getting assistance from the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) stock theft unit, “they are completely under-resourced”.
“We as farmers have done a lot from our side. We’ve put up cameras on the roads that are monitored by a security company, which is a great expense. We also have collars on our sheep with GPS tracking devices. This particular flock did not have GPS collars because they were not kept close to the main road. So we go to great lengths to protect our animals.”
Some stock thieves have been apprehended thanks to these measures, says Armstrong.
He believes a syndicate is operating in the area.
“The syndicate is known to the farmers and the police, but we have just been unable to catch them [in the act]. Some have been convicted in the past of stock theft, but they just start again once they’re out of jail.”
Provincial SAPS spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni told News24 that stock theft in the area was of great concern.
“This affects national food security and the economy. People with information should always contact the police to ensure that we can effect arrests.”
Tonjeni said, until a few years ago, “people stole for the pot”, but that stock thieves had since become more organised and cunning.
WARNING: Graphic images below.