Cattle Rustling Epidemic, Farmers Plead for Help

Otjozondupa Police have urged farmers particularly in Otjiwarongo to report all suspicious movements to curb cattle theft.

The appeal comes in the wake of the latest spate of cattle theft that resulted in the loss of animals worth N$1.5 million since January this year.

Desperate farmers in the region have called on government to source more sniffer dogs to assist the police in detecting cattle rustlers after a prominent farmer lost nine oxen and two cows to five cattle thieves last Saturday.

The appeal for sniffer dogs was made after farmers reported gangs of rustlers establishing camps on their farms.

Last month New Era reported on a combined crackdown – which involved tracing cellphone numbers and patrolling roads north of Okahandja – in which 25 of 36 stolen cattle were recovered. The crackdown was put into operation after police uncovered 125 false permits that were issued to cattle rustlers using the permit numbers of elderly people in the Ovitoto area in March this year. Chief Vipuira Kapuuo had said the thieves gave false cellphone numbers, names and identity numbers to acquire the permits.

Calle Hassenpflug of farm Ombujomatemba, which is situated 86 kilometres east of Otjiwarongo on the way to Okakarara in the Otjozondjupa Region, and his neighbour’s farm Klein Hamakari, were targeted last weekend and it was discovered that nine oxen and two cows were slaughtered.

The fresh meat of two cows was later found inside one of Hassenpflug’s farm units.

He urged government to increase the number of police officers dealing with stock theft in the Otjozondjupa Region.

NamPol’s Otjozondjupa regional public relations officer, Sergeant Maureen Mbeha, confirmed the weekend stock theft incidents on farm Klein Hamakari and farm Ombujomatemba. She said cattle rustling has become a major headache for farmers and the police.

“We are dealing with syndicates having members who are well connected but we have also made a couple of breaktrhoughs in recent weeks due to excellent cooperation between the stock theft units of Okahandja, Otjiwarongo and Gobabis,” she said.

She assured farmers in the region that the police are working around the clock to crack down on the syndicates and urged farmers to report each suspicious movement of people or trucks.

“Farms are private property and the police cannot enter and investigate without the consent of farm owners. We must all work closely together if we want to put an end to cattle rustling that is costing our producers dearly and taking the food out of their mouths,” she said.

In the latest incident five suspects were found pretending to repair their vehicle on the C 22 gravel road on Saturday evening.

Mbeha said when members of the police approached the supposed broken vehicle, the five men ran away and abandoned the vehicle. Members of the police force then searched the vehicle and found 12 sacks of dried and fresh meat. It was established that the meat was that of the missing nine oxen and two cows from farms Ombujomatemba and Klein Hamakari. The value of the meat was N$72 000, said Mbeha. “We impounded the vehicle and we will arrest them anytime,” she said. Some of the cattle rustlers camp secretly on farms and set up wire traps which horrendously ensnare moving cattle that these criminals butcher.

Two arrests were also made after cattle thieves drove off over 36 cattle in late March from farm Hillcrest belonging to Dicky Kotzeacute.

Detective Sergeant William Gray of the Okahandja Stock Theft Unit yesterday confirmed that the long arm of the law had secured a noose around the necks of the ring leaders of a syndicate that stole more than 250 cattle worth some N$1.2 million in areas north of Okahandja since the beginning of the year.

Stock theft units went on full alert at the end of March after four loads of cattle went missing from four different farms.

The police received some cellphone numbers from the suspects in various cases and have been using these numbers to gather more information.

Of the livestock stolen in 2013, 916 arrests were made in that regard. In 2013, 3 424 big livestock and 5 676 small livestock were stolen. Statistics for 2012 reveal 4 589 cattle were stolen.

Statistics for the four northern regions, prominent for livestock farming, revealed that stock worth about N$1.1 million was reported stolen in 2012, of which only N$415 982 worth of livestock was recovered in that same year.

Last year, livestock worth N$991 600 were reported stolen in the Ohangwena Region, and only N$339 800 worth of livestock was recovered by the end of that year.

“Some of the latest reports involve inheritance-related issues and farmers failing to mark their animals to identify them,” said the police deputy commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi.

He also attributed the loss of livestock to unsupervised stock roaming around freely, and a lack of control or farm management.

Kanguatjivi urged farmers to connect themselves to farmers’ associations and forums that work in conjunction with the police, and to report any incidences of stolen livestock immediately as well as any suspicious movements around their farms.

Source : New Era