Traditional chiefs in Mangwe district, Plumtree, have expressed concern over the high rate of livestock theft in the district and the inaccurate statements of complainants recorded by police officers.
This has led to the release of suspects when they appear in court due to weak evidence, said the traditional leaders.
The chiefs also took a swipe at Mangwe Rural District Council (RDC), pointing out their processes of selling stray livestock was outdated, lack transparency and disadvantaged owners who would have lost their cattle.
In a strongly worded petition addressed to all the relevant government departments in Mangwe, the chiefs fell short of saying the police were working in cahoots with the suspects, as they accused police officers of “writing different statements from what the complainant would have said, and evidence offered.”
The traditional leaders bemoaned how some police officers took more than 24 hours to write official statements from suspects, as this allowed culprits “to access people who gave them tips to make false statements that weakened livestock theft cases.”
“Some police officers allow the evidence, which is the stolen livestock, to go back to the suspect’s custody, weakening the case against the suspect,” read the petition.
“The suspects are released or given bail by the court of law besides the overwhelming evidence against the livestock theft suspect.”
Such acts, said the chiefs, led community members to lose hope in the law, warning it may even encourage locals to take the law into their own hands.
In their petition, the chiefs even provided examples of how some statements are recorded:
Turning to the Mangwe RDC processes of auctioning stary livestock, the chiefs said advertising was not thorough as some people lost their livestock unfairly.
“Some records of trademarks (imitshiso) (or branding) are neither on the council database nor kept electronically while owners of the trademark have genuine trademark certificates,” read the petition.
The traditional leaders cited a case where livestock was sold on August 19, 2022 at Paste Village via auction by the council yet the livestock belonged to someone from Nkendile, a neighbouring village while Mangwe RDC claimed this particular trademark was not on the database hence they failed to contact the owner.
The chiefs also faulted the three months grace period given by Mangwe RDC before auctioning stray livestock, noting it was too short.
“This process of selling stary livestock promotes livestock theft -some people go to the areas and unlawfully to fetch other people’s livestock and report it as stray livestock to gain the percentage given to them during the auction process.
“We suspect that some money from the stary livestock auction does not reach the relevant destination and if its foes reach the amounts auctioned differ from the actual auction amount.”
The traditional leaders called upon the police district commissioners to make sure that police officers on duty write accurate complainant statements when arresting suspects to avoid criminals getting off the hook easily and getting back to the communities to cause more harm
As a call of action, chiefs urged police district commissioners to make sure that police officers on duty write both the complainant and suspect statements immediately after the arrest to avoid interference or influence from external forces.
“Police District Commissioners to make sure that the evidence (exhibit -suspected stolen livestock at hand is not released back to the suspects before the case is over,” read the petition.
“Courts of law to make sure that the livestock theft suspects are neither given bail nor released if there is convincing evidence -this might cause instability in the communities.
Mangwe RDC officials must also thoroughly advertise the sale of stray livestock to the public sold at auctions.
“They can use social media platforms including the photographs of the stray livestock, as the method they use is not effective as it does include photographs,” said the chiefs.
“Mangwe RDC officials must make awareness to the public to make sure that the trademarks are on the official database and their contacts for easy tracking when the need arises.
“Money gained from the selling of stray livestock does not help the local community in any way.”
Chiefs also advised Mangwe RDC officials to lengthen the grace period of auctioning stray livestock to one year to make sure the recovery rate of lost stolen livestock is high
“Mangwe must make sure that the correct amount gained from the sale of stray livestock reaches the relevant destination. If possible, the money gained from the sale of the stray livestock should benefit the local community,” read the petition.