Roast meat vogue fuels livestock theft

Farmers in the Midlands fear that their livestock are being stolen and sold to Shiya nyama outlets. Police are working hard to curb the crime. FILE

Farmers in the Midlands fear that their livestock are being stolen and sold to Shiya nyama outlets. Police are working hard to curb the crime. FILE

Published Jul 1, 2024


Durban — A rise in the demand for red meat and the proliferation of shisa nyama braai outlets have livestock farmers worried.

Farmers who can afford it are upping security on their farms.

Several livestock farmers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were concerned and believed a syndicate was behind the stock thefts and that its members were servicing an existing market. Some indicated they had hired private security companies to deal with the problem.

With shisa nyama outlets now operating in central business districts as well as in townships, the demand for meat has continued to grow. The term means “burnt meat” in Zulu, and is widely used to describe an outlet where braaied meat is sold.

Farmer Fano Ngubane, from New Hanover in the KZN Midlands, said livestock thefts had increased rapidly over the past three years.

“It seems to be getting worse each month, and to some degree seems to underline the state of anarchy and lawlessness in the country,” said Ngubane.

He cited instances in which the thieves had struck more than once at farms in the area, including his farm, as an example of such chaos and lawlessness, where criminals did as they pleased.

“It is evident that they serve an already existing market and it does not take much to realise that shisa nyama outlets provide this market for thieves.”

Ngubane said he would not advise any youngster to become a farmer because of the many risks involved.

He had little hope the new administration would clamp down on livestock theft, and said that over the years many promises had been made to assist farmers, but these had amounted to nothing.

Ntuthuko Shezi from Livestock Wealth, a crowd-funding entity, said many of their members were complaining about how livestock theft had hamstrung their operations and impacted overall profit margins.

Shezi said the methods used by thieves illustrated the immediate demand for meat.

“In many instances, cattle are slaughtered on the spot, with the legs and the head being taken, while intestines and guts are left behind on the farm or wherever the animals have been found,” said Shezi.

The red meat sold at the outlets was normally cut from the legs and was popular with patrons.

Shezi said millions of rand were lost each year through livestock theft. He appealed to municipalities to tighten controls and ensure that only legitimate outlets were trading and buying from legitimate businesses and abattoirs. “If this control mechanism was applied, there would be very little room for thieves to operate.”

Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg) Municipality acting communications manager Anele Makhanya said they were aware of the businesses, which were found in many parts of the municipality’s jurisdiction. The municipality, however, could not determine the number of such operations.

“No, we have not conducted an audit specifically for the number of shisa nyamas outlets trading within the Msunduzi jurisdiction. These establishments are treated as any other business that requires a licence under the Business Act 71 of 1991,” Makhanya said.

She said they had seen a rise in the number of shisa nyama outlets in Msunduzi and attributed their proliferation to an increase in public demand for this type of roast meat.

While the municipality was actively involved in promoting the economic growth of the city, and consistently emphasised compliance from all businesses operating within the city, Makhanya stressed that they had not received any reports of stolen meat, or of it being traded at the outlets.

“Such matters are handled by the South African Police Service and do not fall within our mandate,” she said, adding that businesses that operated in the city did so under strict trading conditions, which formed part of their licence conditions.

Comment from the KZN SAPS had not been received at the time of going to print.

Sunday Tribune