Stock Theft Under Control?

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By Petronella Sibeene GOBABIS The formation of a community-based law enforcement agency in the Omaheke Region is paying dividends in the form of a reduction in stock theft, which is rife in the area. The councillor of Otjombinde, Mati Ndjoze, said that since February 2006 when members of the community in his constituency mobilised themselves in an effort to fight stock theft, there has been a drastic decrease in stock theft. In the past, not less than ten cases of theft would be reported on a monthly basis but since February this has decreased to a mere two cases in a month. “We are trying to control stock theft. We are working day and night voluntarily,” said the councillor. He expressed disappointment with some law enforcement agents, adding that police officers befriend thieves in the region such that even in cases where arrests have taken place, bail is granted in cases that do not warrant bail. Residents also blame the police for failure to arrest the culprits. They say thieves are known and nothing is done to bring them to book. The community is not impressed by this seeming reluctance on the part of the police to do their job, hence the initiative to start a law enforcement initiative led by the community itself. This effort has been successful in apprehending stock thieves. “Police officers are friends of thieves but we want them to do their work as police officers and not be part of the gang of thieves,” Ndjoze said. Kalahari constituency councillor Stephanus Mogotsi said commercial farmers in his area have organised themselves and have brought theft cases to what he says is a “normal” level. He added, “In communal areas, you still find pocket cases though minimal.” Inspector Petrus Swartz at the Gobabis Police Station refuted allegations that police officers are friends of thieves adding that residents in the area look at police officers as enemies rather than people they can work with to tackle some of these problems in the region. He added that not all reported cases have been tackled with success given that the police station has problems such as a lack of transport as well as a manpower shortage. “In Gobabis urban area, we had a problem with stock theft almost on a daily basis but beginning of this year, we managed to apprehend three troublesome thieves in the area and now it is quiet,” stated Inspector Swartz. He noted the police are involved in regular roadblocks and have good informers on the ground. “We call on community members to work with us.”