Zimbabwe, Botswana negotiate cattle repatriation
Villagers along the border in Matabeleland South have complained that authorities in the neighbouring country are impounding and slaughtering livestock that strays across the border to safeguard against the possible outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement minister Perrence Shiri applauded NewsDay for bringing to his attention the subject that is of national concern. He said officials have since been dispatched to the neighbouring country where negotiations are on.
In an interview on Monday Shiri said awareness campaign meetings with affected farmers were underway educating them against letting their livestock stray into neighbouring countries.
“We have dispatched officials to Botswana to negotiate to have those cattle returned to Zimbabwe instead of being killed. We are also holding meetings with affected Zimbabwean farmers to expect their cattle likely to be returned anytime soon following this intervention,” he said.
“The cattle should be returned, but we also appeal to our farmers not to let their cattle stray into neighbouring countries. We are holding a series of meetings with farmers along our border with Botswana in that respect. I want to thank you (NewsDay) for highlighting this issue and bringing it to my attention,” Shiri said.
Botswana officials have in the past put down and burnt carcasses of hundreds of Zimbabwean cattle that stray into their country to guard against diseases. Beitbridge District Development Committee, a body comprising stakeholders heading different ministries at district level, last week said Botswana officials had said they would put down thousands of cattle belonging to Zimbabweans who live mostly in the Shashi, Tuli and Gwanda South areas along the border with that country.
Livestock stray into the neighbouring Botswana in search of pasture as drought ravages the southern part of the country following poor rainfall.
Botswana currently exports about 9 000 tonnes of beef to the European Union and another 10 000 tonnes to South Africa enjoying unlimited preferential market access where it competes with South American countries such as Brazil.
The EU agreement enables Botswana to export beef duty-free and quota-free following a ban on Zimbabwe’s quota was terminated as punishment for the 2000 chaotic land reform programme, which also saw a breakdown in animal movement control system.
This has resulted in massive disease breakouts with cattle moving from red into green zones.
Government has also failed to properly administer animal health due to lack of foreign currency to purchase veterinary medicines and erection of animal movement control fences.
A large part of the beef area in southern Zimbabwe is in the red zone where foot and mouth, black leg and other tick borne diseases have decimated livestock.
Recently, government advised farmers to individually source chemicals to treat their herds which also face a serious threat from a drought likely to wipe out thousands of livestock in most parts of southern Zimbabwe.
Farmers in many parts of Beitbridge are currently stocking grass and other supplementary stockfeed to avert potential disaster.
Mujini Ndou, the 2017 Beitbridge communal farmer of the year said she was struggling to feed her 87 head of cattle and was willing to trade some livestock for bales of grass.
“I am willing to destock for grass. I could lose more cattle if I fail to plan properly,” she told Southern Eye.
A safari hunter and farmer in Beitbridge West yesterday said villagers living near the Mapungubwe Trans Frontier Park had driven thousands of their cattle into Sentinel and Nottingham Estates game farms where domestic-wildlife transmission of diseases is highly likely.
“Thousands of cattle have been driven into the wildlife area and we are staring at a disaster in the face. Soon, all the pastures will be wiped out and we will have wildlife and domestic animal deaths,” said the safari operator.