The South African farmer’s survival is threatened by various sources, of which  stock theft is on

Stock theft impacts on the sustainability of stock farming in most of our provinces. This crime, which has an impact on both the commercial and emerging farming sectors, has become a lucrative business operation.

An average of 30 000 stock theft cases was annually reported in the past five years, with a combined monetary value of R750 million per annum.

However, the stock industry also plays a role in the high incidence of stock theft. Many of the role players in the stock trade do not adhere to the stipulations of the Animal Identification Act and the Stock Theft Act, which control the movements of animals. Therefore these persons do not adhere to the basic requirements for the prevention of stock theft.

This crime has a very negative impact on both the commercial and emerging farmers of our country. The stock theft units are unable to combat this crime on its own and members of the stock industry who does not adhere to legislation and fail to mark their stock, make a contribution to the incidence of stock theft



In the period 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014, 56 954 cattle have been stolen at a value of R592 321 600. 22 070 of that has been recovered, which means that 34 884 cattle had been lost at a value of R363 793 600.

In the case of sheep, 79 713 sheep have been stolen in the period 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014 at a value of R135 512 100. A total of 16 663 of this has been recovered. The total loss was 63 050 sheep at a value of R107 185 000.

As far as goats are concerned, 34 988 have been stolen in the same period at a value of R68 226 600. Of this, 10 600 has been recovered which means there has been a loss of 24 388 goats at a value of R47 556 600.

The next ten police stations have been identified as the “hot spot” areas:  Maluti in the Eastern Cape, Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal, Qumbu in the Eastern Cape, Bulwer in KwaZulu-Natal, Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, Sulenkama in the Eastern Cape, Amersfoort in Mpumalanga, Utrecht in KwaZulu-Natal, Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal and  Harrismith in the Free State.


The increase in stock theft can in most of the cases be attributed to the fact that animals are not properly marked. Feedlots, farmers, speculators, auctioneers, abattoirs and buyers at auctions can knowingly or unknowingly be the receivers of stolen stock. If so, they are breaking the law and are liable for a heavy fine or prosecution.


A legal, permanent mark is the first line of defence against stock theft. In South Africa there is legislation which makes provision for an effective animal identification system. In terms of the Animal Identification Act (Act 6 of 2002), the marking of stock is compulsory. This helps the industry and the South African Police Services to fight stock theft and to retrieve stolen stock more easily.

However, it seems that many of the people and institutions trading in stock do not adhere to the applicable legislation and therefore do not adhere to the basic requirements for the combatting of stock theft. Al lot of stock theft cases have to be scrapped because of disputes on the positive identification of stolen stock and because it is impossible to proof ownership. Such disputes can be avoided if an animal has been mark with a registered brand mark or tattoo.

Hot iron brand marks for cattle and tattoo marks for small stock remains the most cost effective ways to mark these animals.


The marketing of animals is a farming process which is closely linked to certain decisions. Factors like the age of the animal, weight, sex, fertility and other factors play a role. The main reason is economic: the animals are sold for financial gains.

The financial side of marketing includes the use of the invoice book, cheque book, electronic financial transfer, the VAT-invoice and related aspects. Most stock owners are very diligent with these, but they do not realise that they may be contravening other legislation which is not related to the South African Income Services.


Legislation controlling the marketing of stock protects the owner and all role players in the value chain to which the stock are delivered. The Stock Theft Act (Act 57 of 1959) and the Animal Identification Act (Act 6 of 2002) has been promulgated for this reason. It handles two specific aspects of the marketing of stock, namely the buying and selling as well as the transportation of the stock. Anybody trading with stock has a liability to be informed of all legislation in this regard.


When stock owners become the victims of stock theft, they can play an active role in the prevention of further thefts by supporting the local SAPS and the Stock Theft Unit during the investigation. A lot of stock theft cases cannot be satisfactorily resolved because of incomplete witnessing, a lack of proof and incomplete statements. It also often happens that stolen stock is not positively identified and the owner fails to proof ownership.

One of the important aspects is the handling of the crime scene. It is a valuable source of proof and stock owners must now how to preserve the crime scene and tokens of proof.

As far as the reporting of stock theft cases is concerned, it is important to report the stock theft as soon as the crime has been discovered. It will then be easier to resolve the case satisfactorily.


The first police officer on the scene has to compile a scene statement. The plaintiff’s statement must immediately be taken, except in the case of an injury which needs urgent medical attention. The police can still open a docket, even if it’s not possible for the plaintiff to make a statement immediately.

If an arrest has been made, arrest statements must also be taken, as well as those of eye witnesses.


 A criminal procedure case book is a composition of rules and procedures which regulates the whole process of criminal prosecution. It provides rules for arrests, bail, the hearing, judgement, and appeal. The most prominent source of the South African criminal justice procedure is the Criminal Justice Act, Act 51 of 1977. The Constitution also incorporates important principals in terms of the criminal process, especially in the Bill of Human Rights. The Bill of Human Rights protects every accused’s right to a fair hearing.

Specific steps must be followed in the criminal justice system, just like the victims of crime also have certain rights within the criminal justice system.

If you have been a victim of crime, you have certain rights which are embedded in the Bill of Victims. In terms of the minimum standards of services for victims of crime, victims also have the right on compensation and the right to restitution.


A victim of crime also has the right to be present at a sitting of the Parole Board, when the possible release of an offender is considered.

There are also certain mechanisms for complaints and steps can be taken if you are during the criminal justice process dissatisfied with the prosecutor or the court about

  • The way you have been treated
  • The information your received, and
  • Decisions that have been taken.


The Animal Identification Act and the Stock Theft Act are the two Acts generally associated with stock theft. There are also other acts which are transgressed when stock is stolen, like the Fencing Act (Act 31 of 1963) and the Violation Act (Act 6 of 1959). Farmers must have knowledge of the content of these legislation and the additional transgressions according to these Acts, which can be included in the charge sheet.

Illegal hunting with dogs is occurring more frequently. Illegal hunters enter properties, damage fences and their dogs attack both stock and game. Land owners are frustrated because they struggle to prosecute the offenders. Land owners and hunters are both ignorant of the land owner’s rights.



Stock theft can be combatted in various ways. Stock owners can help to ensure that the risk on their property is diminished. The stock theft prevention forums and information centres are worthy of every stock owner’s support.

It is essential that stock owners and red meat producers become more actively involved in investigations and the prevention of stock theft. One of the most effective ways for producers to have a say in successful investigations and prosecutions, are the establishment of stock theft information centrums in their districts.


I request stock farmers to take the following to heart:

  • Brand all stock in accordance with the law with a tattoo or a brand mark.
  • Keep a complete record of all identification documents and removal certificates.
  • Report all stock theft cases immediately to the SAPS.
  • Victims and witnesses appearing in court must know their rights.
  • Count all stock regularly and keep a controlled stock register.
  • Become actively involved with investigations in the combatting of stock theft.