For the past few months, Revence Poloko’s goats have been gradually disappearing and he did not suspect any foul play.
However, when seven of them disappeared in one night a few weeks ago, he became very suspicious and consulted the spirits of the dead to guide him.
This 48-year-old traditionalist of Matlapana ward in Maun says a local traditional herbalist told him that the people involved in the small stock theft would turn themselves in and confess to the crime without him following them up.
“I consulted the traditional doctor and he told me that my goats were alive and somewhere in Nxaraga. He mixed his herbs and told me that somebody will come and take us to the goats. He said they were held by a syndicate of thieves who are profiting from our sweat,” explained Poloko in an interview this week.
He contends that shortly after the visit to the herbalist, a young man from the neighbourhood came forth and confessed that he knew where the goats were and led the owners to where the animals are and they went to collect them.
Baeti Poloko aged, 81, also recovered her goats the same week. For her, it was not through the herbalist but the same young man who came to tell her where the goats were kept.
Baeti had lost 15 goats and seven sheep to the alleged same syndicate.
“He said he knows where the goats were and indeed he led us to where they were hidden in Nxaraga. He was brought here by Revence,” she explained before adding that, “There is no kraal there, the goats are just kept in a piece of dry land inside Nxaraga River, some sort of an island. It is accessible by boats or you have to swim to get there,” added Baeti.
She said initially her goats kept disappearing one at a time, but a few weeks ago three batches of 15 goats and seven sheep were taken in three consecutive nights. “And then we knew that there were indeed stolen and indeed the thieves confessed that they collected them in a black van and some were sold.”
According to the Polokos there are many goats hidden away in the Nxaraga river and the thieves told them they occasionally sell them to unsuspecting government officers through poverty eradication programme, Nyeletso lehuma, which often gives goats to beneficiaries who want to venture into small stock farming.
The government programme is intended to empower young people and unemployed women with grants so that they can sustain themselves, improve their livelihoods and even create employment for themselves and others.
However these young men aged 21, 18 and 16 among others have allegedly been stealing from poor families, even poverty eradication beneficiaries to sell to the government.
From what they told the Polokos is that they were hired to collect goats, which are found outside kraals at night, and they called the goats “matimela”. “When they reach Nxaraga the goats’ ear markings are distorted by cutting the ears with scissors to make it hard for the owners to recognise the marks.”
Nonetheless, even though this matter passed through Maun police station, no formal complaint was filed as the parties agreed to settle the matter at home allegedly at the request of one parent of the suspected thieves.
They have even signed a payment agreement to Baeti for the P21 000 compensation for her goats and seven sheep because “A goat is sold for P1000 and a sheep goes for P2000 each.”
Meanwhile council representation for Matlapana ward, Kobamelo Baikgodise expressed concern over the growing incidents of stock theft in Matlapana.
“It is very worrisome because they steal from the very people who are trying to make ends meet and rearing goats for self-subsistence. As concerning the poverty eradication sales, I will try to make a follow-up because I doubt they know what is happening on the ground.”