“It is a major problem, especially cross-border stock theft between the Eastern Cape and Lesotho. There is a huge security issue to farmers,” Cele told Sapa in a telephone interview following a meeting with the Eastern Cape Prevention of Stock Theft Forum in Queenstown.
Cele said government wanted to deal decisively with the stock theft problem that was crippling livestock farming in the province and the country.
He said the issue of rural safety was critical within the farming community, and dialogue and strategic engagements were imperative in addressing the problems faced by farmers and their workers.
“If the thieves can take 330 animals at a time and take your whole food consumption, that is a serious problem… and their safety is at risk,” said Cele.
He said the forum, which was made up of various agricultural and farming associations, as well as community policing forums, raised several issues at Friday’s meeting.
“The forum raised the matter of stock theft and requested the ministers of police and agriculture to look into it. We have agreed to elevate it to a national body to look at it, but first we want to check on all the provinces that have this problem,” he said.
Cele said the ministers would first talk to their counterparts in Lesotho to see how they reduced stock theft before establishing the body.
Previously, the Eastern Cape had the highest number of reported stock theft cases. This year it was KwaZulu-Natal.
Cele could not provide exact figures.
He said the rural communities had also raised concerns about the lack of police resources to respond quickly to help them.
“They wanted to know how the police can be helped with resources so that they can respond quickly and early in stock theft cases.”
The forum had agreed on a follow-up meeting, but a date had not been disclosed.