POLICE have made a significant breakthrough in curtailing cases of stocktheft in Tshanyaugwe and surrounding areas in Gwanda following a weeklong operation targeting stock thieves which has seen the recovery of 51 cattle.
Tshanyaugwe, Ngoma and John Dip have been the targets of notorious cattle rustlers who alter the brand of the stolen cattle making it difficult for owners to recognise them.
Some of the culprits are suspected to be working in cahoots with officials who assist them in clearing the stolen beasts. In some instances, the thieves slaughter the cattle in the bushes and carry the meat.
Some of this meat is allegedly supplied to butcheries while some of it is sold to the public from people’s houses.
Cases of stock theft have threatened the source of livelihood of many farmers in Matabeleland South Province which is a livestock farming area.
The 10-year mandatory sentence for stock theft seems not to be deterrent enough as daring culprits keep breaking the law.
Police in September launched an operation targeting stock thieves in Gwanda District resulting in 98 cattle and 12 donkeys being recovered under the first phase of the operation dubbed “lets fight stock thieves/asilwiseni amasela ezifuyo/ ngatirwisei mbavha dzezvipfuyo” which ended on October 2.
Police went on to conduct the second phase of the operation from November 13 to 20 and 51 cattle as well as two donkeys were recovered.
When the culprits learnt of the police operation, they ditched the cattle in the bush leading to their recovery. Police who were using horses managed to round up the dumped cattle. They are set to launch the third phase of the operation in due course.
Villagers from Tshanyaugwe and surrounding areas have said there is significant change since the operation started.
“We have had to put up with these criminals for many years. These stock thieves have wiped out our herds and they have now moved on to steal cattle from neighbouring villages which they bring here.
“The situation has greatly improved since police started their operation. Some cattle that were stolen from our area and even outside have been recovered,” said Ms Rorisang Ncube.
She urged the police to continue with the operation until all the culprits are behind bars.Ngoma village head, Mr Enock Mpala said they hoped the operation will bring an end to cattle rustling.
He said stock thieves had tainted the image of their area which was now labelled as a hub for stock thieves.
Mr Mpala said they were happy that police had recovered some stolen cattle but as long as the thieves have not been arrested, the problem has not been solved.
“We are glad that this operation is yielding good results as we see cattle being recovered.
There is however a need to ensure the culprits have been arrested. The image of our area has been tainted by these cattle rustlers,” he said.
The Officer commanding Gwanda District chief superintendent Mandlenkosi Moyo said they had completed the second phase of the operation and they will soon launch the third phase. He said they will continue to conduct the operation until the areas are rid of cattle rustlers.
Chief supt Moyo said stock theft hotspots were Tshanyaugwe, Ngoma and John Dip areas.
He urged members of the public to come and identify their missing cattle.
Chief Supt Moyo said the 51 cattle were recovered on Monday last week in John Dip area at night. He said the suspects who were driving the cattle on seeing the police, fled from the scene.
Chief Supt Moyo urged members of the public with information on the identity and whereabouts of the suspects to contact any nearest police station.