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GUGCUKA – Cattle rustlers are now targeting children as young as 12 years old to herd and steal livestock after threatening them with violence and death should they refuse.

This was revealed by a distraught mother who shared how her son and two grandsons were recruited by a relative to steal cattle around Dvokolwako.

The youngest of the boys is 12 years old while the oldest is 23 and the other is 16 years old.
In separate interviews, the boys, in the presence of their parents, disclosed that they were forced into stealing people’s cattle by their relative. The relative’s name has been deliberately withheld as he has not been arrested and charged.    

The oldest, *Sipho said his uncle first inducted him into rustling  by first stealing goats before graduating to cattle.
Sipho recounted that they stole five goats at a neighbour’s homestead which were later slaughtered.

“He promised to give me E1 000 for the job. However, he disappeared without paying me. I then decided to inform the owner of the livestock about what we did and he (owner) was livid,” Sipho said.


He said his uncle got wind that he had informed the neighbour about their shenanigans and did not take kindly to what he had done.
“He came at night and dragged me out of my room. He then tied me to a tree, which is situated within the homestead and while I was screaming for help, he grabbed my tongue and tried to rip it out. He said he wanted to kill me because I had sold him out,” the 23 year-old recounted.

Sipho said he was saved by his mother who heard his scream.
The mother, Elizabeth, confirmed that she almost witnessed her son being killed by a relative.


“I told him to leave my son alone. I then pushed him away before untying my son,” said Elizabeth.
The following day Elizabeth said she reported the incident to her husband and elders of the family.

The husband who was earlier reported to be away, arrived while the interview was in progress.
Pololo* confirmed that the matter was discussed and resolved at family level. In a nutshell, Pololo said it was swept under the carpet (tibi tendlu). 

Surprisingly, Sipho said a few months later, his uncle invited him to a hunting expedition.
“On this day, my uncle said we should go hunt for timbabala (bushbucks) near the diamond mine.  I agreed. We then proceeded to the forest.
“We were there until around 9pm. He then said we should venture out as the bushbucks would be roaming around freely,” he narrated


While walking around, Sipho said they came across three cows which had been left unattended.
His uncle instructed him to drive the cattle to his homestead, situated about 10 kilometres away.
“I did not bother questioning him. In fact, I was afraid of him because he was armed with two guns,” he said.

When they arrived at the homestead Sipho said he was instructed to tie the cows to a tree. His uncle then called some people who were later identified as butchery owners on his phone, according to Sipho.

“My uncle assisted the men to slaughter the cows. They loaded the cows onto their van without skinning them, and left,” he said.
When asked if he knew the men, Sipho said he only overheard them saying that they were in a hurry to Manzini further pointing out that he has not participated in any mischievous activities after the ‘disappearance’ of the three cows.


The younger boys Phinda (12) and Vela (16) alleged that they were made to drive two cows to their grandfather’s place.
Initially, the boys, who spoke in the presence of their grandmother, said they had been invited to a hunting expedition by their grandfather.

While walking towards the forest, Phinda said they found the two cows along the Mliba-Dvokolwako highway which they drove to their grandfather’s homestead.

“When we reached home he tied the cows to a tree before instructing us to go and sleep. When I woke the next day, the cows were gone,” he said.
Asked if they were rewarded for their role Phinda said they never received any form of payment.
*Not their real names

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