A SUSTAINED effort by police to deal with a stock-theft syndicate in Newcastle in northern KwaZulu-Natal has brought smiles to the animal owners.
The police recorded drastically reduced numbers of stock stolen in the region after clamping down on a gang of rustlers.
A gang has targeted several Newcastle villages over the past five years.
Ecstatic cattle owner Alfred Mbhekeni Dlomo said he was relieved to see cattle of his that disappeared three months ago.
"I can't live without my cattle. I sell or consume my stock," Dlomo said.
The remote areas of Nquthu, Kingley and Utrecht have been hardest hit by cattle thieves over the past few months.
Police spokesperson Shooz Magudulela said stock theft in Utrecht had been drastically reduced as a result of the efforts of the police.
He said they had recovered 350 head of cattle.
"At least 14 people had lost cattle over the last six months," he said.
A fortnight ago, stock-theft syndicate members Mbhekiseni Khumalo, 50, Celimpilo Khumalo, 50, Mbhekiseni Mazibuko, 43, Nhlalonhle Nxumalo, 43, Mkhipheni Ndlovu, 36, and Thobani Mazibuko, 29, were given stiff sentences.