THE Department of Agriculture wants more money from the Treasury and fresh legislation allowing for specialised courts and harsher punishments to help it fight livestock thieves.
Department deputy director-general Kgabi Mogajane told MPs yesterday that syndicates of thieves were stealing livestock from commercial and peasant farmers and causing enormous losses .
"There are syndicates that are stealing these animals," she said.
"In the rural areas it is even worse. People come and steal all the livestock at night.
"We are trying to find a solution. But what we need is investment in the livestock industry."
Mogajane said the department had wanted to introduce a tracing system, similar to one being used in Botswana, which would allow meat to be traced from a supermarket shelf back to the owner of the animal.
But its requests for funds from Treasury had been turned down.
The Botswana system involves placing a tracing object into the cow's mouth. The object then moves into the reticulum of the animal, around the stomach. A scanner can then be used to trace the animal's owner.
Mogajane said specialised stock theft courts and legislation that would allow stiffer fines for thieves would do a lot to solve the problem.
DA MP Lourie Bosman told the committee how stock theft, which was estimated to cause losses of about R360million a year, had "ruined" his farming business in Ermelo.
"In the last two or three years I've lost 400 to 500 sheep a year through stock theft," he said.
"People are organised out there. They do it in systems. They slaughter loads of sheep at every theft."
Bosman said the thief in his case had turned out to be a councillor from Ermelo.
Bosman said if the government wanted to implement a tracing system it had to seriously start work on financing a data system for all the cattle in South Africa, as had been done in Australia.
"Australia went over to a data traceability system in two years. It was government-financed and people were put on the ground to implement the system."
Committee member Nicolaas du Toit said the tracing system would serve no purpose while the police were not doing their job. - Sapa