Syndicates using youths to steal

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Goat theft syndicates operating in the Ladysmith area use unemployed youths to steal goats from local townships to sell on the black market.

Locals say the goats sell like hot cakes because the communities are known to use the animals for traditional cleansing ceremonies on weekends.

The victims, especially widows who raise the animals to take care of their families, say stock theft in the area has been on the increase in the past six months.

The syndicates operate in nearby Ezakheni, Ekuvukeni, Colenso, Besters and Elandslaagte areas.

A widow Thembela Mkhungo, 80, said she had lost more than 30 goats in the past six months.

She says the syndicates are run by well-known business people who prey on the unemployed youth.

"Our children are easy targets of greedy business people who influence them to steal the animals to make a living," she said.

Mkhungo said the police have exhausted all their strategies to deal with the stock theft. "While others have been lucky to have their animals returned to them by police, I have not been so fortunate.

"It's painful because I keep these goats to feed and pay school fees for my grandchildren. I have had my goats for many years," said Mkhungo.

She said locals have been informed that stock theft syndicates have been operating in the area for many years.

"We are told that our goats are sold to big businesses in Estcourt. Cattle theft has decreased, but goats are stolen daily," she said.

Jurg Marx, commander of the Ladysmith Stock Theft Unit, said while stock theft has decreased in the past few months, the theft of goats is a worry.

"We recover some of the stock and send it back to the rightful owners. But it is a challenge," he said.

He said arrests are made regularly and the perpetrators face jail terms of up to five years.

"Sometimes we arrest more than 10 people linked to the syndicate per week. Still cases of stock theft continue."

Yesterday, nine goats were recovered by police when the community alerted them to a man who was herding the goats to nearby mountains.

The man was arrested and the goats will be returned to their owner.

Police spokesman Charmaine Struwig said they responded to the call from the community.

In July Sowetan, through a published photograph, helped a local Ladysmith couple recover their 25 stolen goats after robbers were caught transporting the animals in a mini-bus taxi.