Livestock theft: The short end of the stick

Stockfarm|May 2020

Livestock theft: The short end of the stick
Three elements are necessary for a crime to be committed: a willing criminal, a suitable target (property) and the absence of a competent guardian (owner). The current depopulation of rural areas in South Africa is also increasing the opportunity for crime.
Dr WA Lombard

The most common crimes committed in the rural areas of the country include livestock and grain theft, housebreaking and equipment theft (such as tools and batteries). Then there are farm attacks that frequently send shock waves through the country.

Victims of rural crime

The 2018 Victims of Crime report provides, among other things, figures on livestock and grain theft. According to the report, 0,77 and 0,05% of all households in South Africa suffered losses due to livestock and grain theft, respectively, during the 2017/18 financial year.

The report also mentions the type of livestock theft that took place. Goats were the most common livestock stolen with 30,6% of households affected. The number of goats stolen during the year was estimated at just over 170 000. In contrast, almost 270 000 sheep were stolen with roughly 19% of households affected.

In addition, 177 000 head of cattle were stolen from 23,8% of the households that suffered losses due to livestock theft. There were many households from which livestock were stolen more than once in the same year.

The report shows that only 29% of all theft cases were reported by the victims in the 2017/18 financial year. This means that an astounding 71% of all cases were not brought to the attention of the South African Police Service (SAPS). However, the rate of reporting improved slightly compared to the previous financial year, during which only 26% of cases were reported. The rate of livestock theft reporting is not mentioned in the 2018/19 report.

Livestock theft trends

Considering the low level of reporting, the number of livestock theft cases reported to the SAPS in the 2018/19 financial year increased by 2,9% compared to the previous financial year. The number of cattle, sheep and goats stolen was 4,68, 10,89 and 12,98% higher than the previous year.


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May 2020