16 March, 2012
in the timber industry benefited in attending the general meeting presented by
the Lowveld Timber Theft Committee in Sabie
The general meeting was intended to inform stakeholders of the progress
made on the formulation and implementation of a strategy to drastically reduce
timber theft in the region.
A committee, representative of key industry players, was elected in
February. Each committee member has
been assigned a specific portfolio to ensure that the industry is assisted in
every step from catching the thieves all the way to ensuring successful
Statistical data on each case will be kept to measure the success of
the strategy and to find ways on improving on current processes. This
information will also be communicated on national level to ensure government's
awareness of the severity of the problem.
The ultimate aim is to encourage cooperation and participation from the
South African Police Services and to uncover the syndicates, which industry players
believe forms part of organized crime.
Mr Tobie Steyn from the Nelspruit prosecuting office discussed various
aspects around the importance of evidence and the role of the prosecutor and
what is required from the industry to ensure that the prosecutors are placed in
a position to convict criminals.
Great interest was shown when Mr.
Kobus van der Walt from the
asset forfeiture unit presented the different applicable chapters of the act.
He made it clear that all efforts must be made to ensure that assets of
these criminals are confiscated to make it less viable for these crimes to
Pieter Knipschild stressed that the problem will not go away without a
focused, strategic and coordinated strategy (between public, private and
The biggest problem in solving timber theft currently lies with
failures within the structures of the SAPS.
Various people who attended the meeting expressed their frustrations
when having to deal with the local police stations, even though representatives
from SAPS were present. In many
instances none of the cases reported are not investigated by the SAPS due to
their limited knowledge of the industry and timber theft being perceived as not
a serious crime. All efforts by the
timber theft committee to engage the SAPS to nominate a representative to serve
on the committee have failed.
Joey Lascelles, who is the media liaison officer, stated that the
committee will go to great lengths to ensure that significant focus is placed
on timber and related theft. The
benefit of the new structure is that different entities will no longer function
in isolation in trying to fight timber theft, but information sharing will
bring suspected criminals to light and will make it impossible for these people
to operate in the industry. Various local radio stations will be approached in
assisting in the campaign and there is a possibility of launching a timber
theft hot line where suspected criminal activity can be reported.
Focus will also be placed on the timber markets to ensure that
appropriate processes are put in place to ensure that they do not accept stolen
timber. Markets that are unwilling to
participate in the campaign will be profiled and will be subjected to
tremendous pressure from the industry at large.
Pieter Knipschild thanked everybody for the tremendous support and
encouraged everybody to get involved.