Stock theft,social cancer from thuggery

Day in, day out the media houses report all sorts of news, and disheartening of all news, is the crime in our beloved country of which in most cases is coupled with ruthlessness thereof. In the same context, it is to be questioned, why some people tend to resort to crime or thuggery as the way of life? The farming communities in rural areas, especially cattle ranchers or pastoralists/tradtional cattle farmers are at risk of losing their live stock, being stolen by stock thieves whose main occupation is stock theft. Whether the farmer is commercial, traditional, or just subsistence farmer, all are terrorized in the same way, as their source of income and livelehood is at risk of being stolen.

The stock theft, is the social cancer, as much as all other forms of crimes are cantankerous to society at large, as it seeks to target the pillar of the rural economy, thereby further entrenching abject poverty and also increasing the production costs through an increase in insurance and security premiums, let alone key inputs, thus exposing the farmer to bankrupcy. Stock theft, one the crimes committed in rural areas, bring about negative environment, posing great threat to all stakeholders, from funders, entrepreneurs, potential employees and consumers. It is illegal, unethical but lucrative venture,as the stock thieves supply informal markets, like township butcheries and shisanyamas, which sell non-graded meat products to an unassuming consumers. In the not-too-distant festive season, one of the cattle ranchers in a peri-urban settlement lost his Nguni-type bull, stolen from the kraal, which was probably slaughtered to meet the demand during that peak season at one of shisanyama-cum-butcheries we often frequent around township. Most of these shisanyama-cum-butcheries are like metal recycling ventures,where stolen copper cables from street light poles, railway powerlines and alluminium rails from bridges are sold to these businesses.

By nature, any agricultural venture is risky, however given the intensity of crime (stock theft, predation by humans), farming business becomes increasingly risky,where only brave dare to keep operating and plan to venture. Many people cease to keep livestock due to stock theft, which does not auger well for farmers in terms of social and financial security, as their assets are disposed and their wealth generation comes to an end. Therefore, stock theft has become a stumbling block to rural development. Even predation by wild animals is much better than the great loss suffered from raging stock thieves, that can steal the herds of cattle in one night. Rather suffer the minimal loss from predators, driven by killer-instinct to feed themselves than by thugs driven by greed, crass materialism and apathy.

Because of this, agriculture in rural communal areas/lands is almost defunct, thus the livelihood and quality of life is inextricably miserable. Currently, the communal lands have just become wasteland,where absolute poverty is prevalent. The stock thieves are products of such environment. It is true indeed,that hunger breeds anger. Equally so, apathy begets thuggery, one of the great threat in all aspects of life in South Africa. All these socio-ills festering and developing into social tumors, whereby ethics, principles, values, traditions and cultures are discarded into the limbo of redudant things. So given such an ill social environment, and the nature of agriculture characterized by four seasons of drought, floods, fires, storms, pests and diseases, flooded markets, low producer prices, high inputs prices and crime, such is the reality to be faced by the current farmers as well as those who are about to venture into farming.

In spite of crime, all farmers seemingly have an undying spirit to carry out all mammoth, daunting tasks and face risky challenges. Driven by passion, they keep on producing, with the hope that all will be well. It is farmers of all kinds, who ensure that we have the food, though the producer prices mostly happen to be indirectly proportional to consumer prices, thus middle-men, processors skimming the cream, they soldier on, as rare breed indeed, that never give in to despair. By the time we sip fruit juice, devour juicy stake and have breakfast bacon, eggs, sausages, let us think farmers and their challenges, especially stock theft.

However, it is the question of upholding ethical values, principles and cultural traditions. Such values are instilled in humans either by strict measures or engagement, and failure to do so gives rise to thuggery to a less or high degree. Once values are compromised, the decadence thrives, leading to all kinds of ills in society. Crime in all forms, is a huge, problematic challenge to society at large, particularly in terms of security,well-being of people, business etc. Whether, we solve this problem or not, solely depends on us, it is either we brood thugs,whereby we fail to make and implement right, firm decisions to eliminate criminal tendencies, and all other anti-social, unethical, corrupt and illegal behaviours or turn blind eye to the problem, thus festering into crisis. Generally, the society at large is undersiege of crime, as criminals are committing all sorts criminal activities day and night.

Sithembiso Mahlaba

An agriculturist by profession, blogger by passion, prominent opinion-maker without favour or fear.

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