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SINCENI – The rampant theft of goats is escalating violence at Nceka, outside Siphofaneni.

The unresolved dispute boiled over to violence when angry residents and farmers attacked a family accusing it of playing a role in the crime.The area has seen the theft of over 200 goats and cattle in recent years, prompting farmers to draw the line, that they cannot take it anymore.They vandalised and looted the business premises of the main suspect to whom they attribute the losses, and further blocked the main road with rocks and tree branches as they demanded answers from the police and family of the suspect.

The violence on Saturday was triggered by the release of a community member on E2 000 bail after he had been arrested for the theft of a few goats in the area. The farmers believe the arrest of the man was too little an achievement, as many other culprits were roaming around and continuing to rustle livestock.  They are of the opinion that the police are either dragging feet in brining culprits to book or deliberately protecting them. Goats are held in high value at Sinceni, an area situated in the lowveld, as communities derive income as well as protein from them. Neighbouring communities in Sithobela, Maphilingo, KuGucuka have also suffered an upsurge in goat theft cases. The farmers rear goats in large quantities because, though hay and grass is in short supply, roughage is in abundance in the form of shrubs and barks.

Enraged residents barricaded the road with tree branches and rocks as they attempted to keep police officers at bay in the height of the mayhem on Saturday. The enraged farmers told Eswatini News that their intention was to visit the home of the main suspect who allegedly facilitating the theft of the livestock. They said all they wanted was for the suspect to give information on the whereabouts of the goats.The police had to use teargas to disperse the crowds and further detained one community member who had allegedly participated in the looting of the main suspect’s shop. One of the farmers Mfanukhona Sibandze who was in the company of five others said the residents’ anger had reached boiling point. “The man who was arrested was then detained in a police van, presumably to be driven to the police station. However, the residents blocked the road and demanded that he be released to avert more violence. The police obliged and released him,” Sibandze said.

He said it was only after the community member had been released from the back of the police van that tempers were calmed. The residents revealed that a foreign nurse at the Sithobela Health Centre had revealed how he also bought a goat from the community member. “When we asked him why he had not verified the origin of the goat, he said where he originates from, movement of goats was allowed, with only verbal arrangement, and there was no need for a stock removal permit. The residents said they wanted the police to shed light on the E2 000 bail paid by the suspect last week. “The man was apprehended by the community, to which he confessed the theft of goats and cattle. Now, if he is released on bail, we want the police to explain why he was not charged for all the other stock theft cases,” Sibandze said. He said during interrogation by the community, the nurse had further implicated the main suspect in the matter as being the one who sold him the goat.

He revealed that one of the farmers was called by the Siphofaneni Police to come and identify a few goats at the police station, but when he got there he discovered that they did not belong to him. Sibandze also revealed how a resident of Mkhaya was also found in possession of stolen goats, though one farmer who was a victim of stolen goats went to ascertain if they did not belong to him and came back with a negative answer. “We believe police are still investigating how the Mkhaya homestead was also involved in the theft of goats,” he said. The residents said they deserved to be appreciated for not resorted to a murderous mob violence as a means to avenge the theft of their goats. “News have been published on how residents elsewhere are killing people for their livestock, but all we want are the goats and cattle back,” they said during the interview.

The residents said they used the goats to support their families, as each was sold for about E800, depending on its size. Bheki Simelane, a resident whose 17 goats had been stolen two months ago, said he had since invested in a boerboel to protect his goats.“I paid E1 500 because I was so angry after discovering that 17 of my cattle were stolen,” he said. The residents said they had resolved to ask the Royal Kraal to adjudicate over the theft of goats in the area and remove the cases from the court so that justice can be done once and for all.“We believe the community can take the best resolution on this matter before it gets out of hand,” the residents said.

Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said police were investigating the theft of goats in the area and could not divulge much details for now. When asked to respond on allegations that the police were shielding the main suspect in the theft of the goats, she insisted that she would not divulge anymore details while the matter was under investigation. She also said REPS was in communication with the residents in a quest to avoid more violence in the area.

Some of the most recent cases
Simelane family – 17 goats stolen
Khumalo Family – 17 goats stolen
LaMatsenjwa – 4 goats stolen
Gwebu Family – 6 goats stolen
Nhlabatsi Family – 2 goats stolen
Dludlu family 3 cows, 2 goats stolen
Mandla Simelane – 1 goat stolen
Dlamini Family 12 cows 10 goats stolen
Magongo family 6 goats stolen


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