By Busisiwe Mgangxela
At midnight on January 22, a farmer at Matole basin in Middledrift was woken up by a loud noise from the chicken house. It turned out that four of his chickens were being stolen and the thieves ran. The farmer was sure the culprits would be injured as the chicken house is surrounded by razor wire.
While the farmer found a red cap left on the ground next to the chicken house gate. It was easily identified as neighbours knew who it belonged to. The cap led the farmer to the two alleged thieves. They were caught at the home of one of them which is not far from the farmer. This was a child-headed household, with a deceased father and the mother working away from home.
The two young men admitted to the theft and asked for forgiveness. They showed the farmer the already slaughtered chickens, two of which had been cooked, one had been cut into pieces ready to go into the pot, and a fourth one which they said they had dropped.
One thief had bruises on his hands and forehead from the razor wire. This farmer lost about 60 chickens last year in same pattern where four or five would be stolen at a time. Amongst the stolen chickens last year was his breeding stock of Buff Orpington rooster which is very expensive, something the thieves were not aware of.
In this recent incident, a Rhodes Island Red hen was amongst the slaughtered ones.
The farmer took the two thieves together with the slaughtered chickens to his neighbours to report the matter and was prepared to take the thieves to the Police station. The residents gathered and asked that they be forgiven as they are known to be good citizens and that if the farmer reported them, he will not gain anything.
The residents continued to plead with the victim, their parents were notified, and the one parent who was working away from home sent a relative while the other sent her brother to be part of residents negotiating for forgiveness. In this village, if one by passes the community, one gets ignored by the community and the community members boycott him/her and do not come to attend whatever is being done in that home.
Community members still do not know that stock theft is a serious offence and needs to be reported as crime and not be discussed through village or Traditional Courts. Workshops need to be done on Traditional Leadership and their institutions as rural communities do not understand the legislation surrounding Traditional Governance. Government, NGO's and the private sector have a big role to play in this regard.