BY RICHARD MUPONDE
Botswana veterinary officials have shot and incinerated about 600 cattle which strayed from Bulilima West constituency into the neighbouring country over the past three years over fears of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), local villagers have revealed.
The villagers from Nswazwi, Mangubo and Hinkwe say they are losing their source of livelihood and appealed to legislator Dingimuzi Phuti to lobby for a fence along the border to save their herd.
Bulilima, in Matabeleland South, together with Masvingo and some parts of the Midlands, are currently under quarantine to contain FMD outbreaks.
Botswana, a major supplier of beef to the European Union and ever wary of an outbreak that could jeopardise those exports, has a shoot to kill policy of cattle that stray from Zimbabwe, a classified FMD Red Zone.
“We will write a petition to the Ministries of Home Affairs and Agriculture so that they should protect us against Botswana’s foreign policy. We can’t make Botswana change its policy, they are protecting their market because they supply beef to the EU. They were told by the bloc that Zimbabwe is a red zone and if your cattle mix with those from that country we will stop buying your beef,” Phuti said.
He said government should act with urgency before part of the national herd is decimated through the shootings.
“I was told that cattle from here, Hinkwe, Nswazi, Malalume, Madabe and Izimnyama have been killed in their numbers. Over 600 is not a joke that’s a national herd going. We are not going to take time to solve the issue because at this rate we will lose all the livestock,” he said.
Headmen Nswazwi, Hinkwe and Mangubo urged the government to erect a security fence on the Zimbabwean side so that livestock does not cross into Botswana.
“The fence was destroyed and the poles were also stolen. Government should consider erecting an electric fence to save the cattle from being shot,” the traditional leaders said.
Contacted for comment, Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri said he was dispatching a team from Matabeleland South to visit affected areas and find the solution to the problem.
“Right now I am dispatching a team of our officers to the affected areas so that they would see how best we can deal with the situation and also talk to farmers to understand how they can be helped in the interim, in averting further shootings. We are preoccupied with separating game parks and the farming areas to curb the spread of the foot and mouth disease,” Shiri said.