Solomon’s wisdom needed in returning stolen livestock

Solomon’s wisdom needed in returning stolen livestock

AUTHORITIES at Khorixas say they are bracing for a potentially explosive situation as far as the community’s identification of more than 7 000 head of stolen livestock is concerned.

With 10 suspected stock thieves now behind bars, including the alleged mastermind behind their foiled syndicate, farmers in the south of the Kunene Region have spent the last week going out to the Police-guarded kraals in the hope of redeeming their lost property. But while the Police maintain that the identification process has so far gone as smoothly as could be expected, others foresee trouble when an announcement is finally made for farmers to collect their livestock.”We won’t even attempt to beat around the bush, this is going to be a tough call.We’re starting to experience some trouble with people identifying stock.”In one instance, for example, we’ve had one goat being identified by five people,” Matheas Tsaeb, a member of Ditsa-I-Mu (DIM), a community stock-theft prevention group, told The Namibian on Friday.Many of the animals have had their identification marks tampered with, he says.Some farmers had earmarked their livestock, he said, and these marks have been cut off or a new owner’s identification has been engraved on top of the original.”Even those marked with paint… the kraals [in which the animals are being temporarily kept] are so small that many of those marks are scraped off as animals rub against one another,” Tsaeb said.The reality of the problem became apparent upon visiting the communal farm Middelplaas, where one of the suspected thieves was caught more than a week ago.A neighbouring farmer, who lives close to where Police officers guard a number of the stolen animals, says she has lost a number of goats and cattle in the past three years, but had believed the animals had simply drifted away from the herd and out of her kraals.She had only recently moved to the farm, and had previously been staying in Khorixas, she said.She was not going to try and identify any of her lost animals, she said, considering it a waste of time.Her son, however, who had come home to visit from his new life in Mariental this past weekend, was adamant that he should go check.”I’ll know on the skin if it’s ours,” he said on Saturday.One headman, Harry Haradoeb of the Aodaman Traditional community, said on Friday that he thought this type of attitude among farmers needs to be addressed.”My question to all the farmers is ‘how long do you think those [stolen] animals have been held in those [secret] kraals?’ We have people who say they’ve lost animals in the last couple of years, but up until now they haven’t gone to the Police to report a case.But now they also go and identify animals.Farmers need to visit their farms more often to see what’s going on there, instead of dodging workers who want to know where their pay is,” he said.”If you’re missing more than 30 animals then surely you have to report it somewhere,” Haradoeb said.In the search for a solution to the stock identification problem, Joephat Peter, Assistant Animal Health Scientist at the Directorate of Veterinary Services at Khorixas, had one possible answer: blood sampling.Blood can be drawn from the disputed animal, he says, and compared to samples taken from animals in the kraals of the farmers.”You then award the animal to the farmer whose kraal shows the closest similarity to that animal,” he suggested.Depending on the number of animals in dispute, however, this exercise may prove to be quite expensive, he warns.The Police Station Commander at Khorixas, Inspector Robert Sanjahi, said he did not share the community’s concern about the stock identification.”About three quarters of the animals have been positively identified already, and I’m only aware of one case where there has been a conflict between farmers over ownership,” he maintained.The nine men arrested in connection with the huge theft remain in custody, Sanjahi said, as bail was denied to all of them.”Since we suspect they’re part of a syndicate, we’re hoping to keep them away from the outside world until we can complete our investigation,” Sanjahi said.DIM has also, in a letter to the Justice Ministry in Windhoek, requested that the nine suspects not be granted bail.”The farming community requests that no bail be granted to the suspect(s) because of (the) high number and subsequent value of the stolen livestock.Peaceful demonstrations are envisaged to be taken if need be,” the letter to Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana reads.But while the Police maintain that the identification process has so far gone as smoothly as could be expected, others foresee trouble when an announcement is finally made for farmers to collect their livestock.”We won’t even attempt to beat around the bush, this is going to be a tough call.We’re starting to experience some trouble with people identifying stock.”In one instance, for example, we’ve had one goat being identified by five people,” Matheas Tsaeb, a member of Ditsa-I-Mu (DIM), a community stock-theft prevention group, told The Namibian on Friday.Many of the animals have had their identification marks tampered with, he says.Some farmers had earmarked their livestock, he said, and these marks have been cut off or a new owner’s identification has been engraved on top of the original.”Even those marked with paint… the kraals [in which the animals are being temporarily kept] are so small that many of those marks are scraped off as animals rub against one another,” Tsaeb said. The reality of the problem became apparent upon visiting the communal farm Middelplaas, where one of the suspected thieves was caught more than a week ago.A neighbouring farmer, who lives close to where Police officers guard a number of the stolen animals, says she has lost a number of goats and cattle in the past three years, but had believed the animals had simply drifted away from the herd and out of her kraals.She had only recently moved to the farm, and had previously been staying in Khorixas, she said.She was not going to try and identify any of her lost animals, she said, considering it a waste of time.Her son, however, who had come home to visit from his new life in Mariental this past weekend, was adamant that he should go check.”I’ll know on the skin if it’s ours,” he said on Saturday.One headman, Harry Haradoeb of the Aodaman Traditional community, said on Friday that he thought this type of attitude among farmers needs to be addressed.”My question to all the farmers is ‘how long do you think those [stolen] animals have been held in those [secret] kraals?’ We have people who say they’ve lost animals in the last couple of years, but up until now they haven’t gone to the Police to report a case.But now they also go and identify animals.Farmers need to visit their farms more often to see what’s going on there, instead of dodging workers who want to know where their pay is,” he said.”If you’re missing more than 30 animals then surely you have to report it somewhere,” Haradoeb said.In the search for a solution to the stock identification problem, Joephat Peter, Assistant Animal Health Scientist at the Directorate of Veterinary Services at Khorixas, had one possible answer: blood sampling.Blood can be drawn from the disputed animal, he says, and compared to samples taken from animals in the kraals of the farmers.”You then award the animal to the farmer whose kraal shows the closest similarity to that animal,” he suggested.Depending on the number of animals in dispute, however, this exercise may prove to be quite expensive, he warns.The Police Station Commander at Khorixas, Inspector Robert Sanjahi, said he did not share the community’s concern about the stock identification.”About three quarters of the animals have been positively identified already, and I’m only aware of one case where there has been a conflict between farmers over ownership,” he maintained.The nine men arrested in connection with the huge theft remain in custody, Sanjahi said, as bail was denied to all of them.”Since we suspect they’re part of a syndicate, we’re hoping to keep them away from the outside world until we
can complete our investigation,” Sanjahi said.DIM has also, in a letter to the Justice Ministry in Windhoek, requested that the nine suspects not be granted bail.”The farming community requests that no bail be granted to the suspect(s) because of (the) high number and subsequent value of the stolen livestock.Peaceful demonstrations are envisaged to be taken if need be,” the letter to Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana reads.

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