A vicious blood-soaked cycle

Kabelo Dipholo
ANGUISH: Farmers looking on as their cattle are being shot

Moroka cattle herders catch stray bullets

For several farmers in Moroka and Mapoka villages in the Northeast, the sound of corking, coughing guns and the painful moos of cows as they fell with a thud to the ground will be etched in their memories for a long time.

The smell of blood and bullets is likely to linger too.

On Saturday afternoon, veterinary officers shot down 32 cattle at Ntemane syndicate kraal in Moroka.

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The beasts were recovered from a cattle rustler at Plumtree, Zimbabwe, a foot and mouth red zone.

According to Tshesebe Station Commander, Mothusi Phadi, the cattle crossed back into Botswana from Zimbabwe on Thursday.

By that point, they were already doomed to die.

Phadi revealed his officers were alerted by the Zimbabwean police about sightings of 63 cows believed to be from Botswana.

The Superintendent added his Zimbabwean counterparts had already arrested a suspect who has since confessed to stealing cattle from Moroka.

“He could not account for some of the cattle found in his kraal, and he’s currently in the hands of the Zimbabwe police while investigations continues,” said Phadi.

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Although meant to control the spread of the deadly foot and mouth disease (FMD), the killing of the cows has angered some residents, who are accusing government of taking the easy way out in dealing with their predicament.

The syndicate Chairperson, Gillion Nkomba, told The Voice killing of cattle before fixing the border fence is counterproductive.

“This means for every Zimbabwean cow that comes into this country, our cattle will pay with their lives,” noted Nkomba.

The Chairperson said Zimbabwean cattle cross into Botswana without any deterrent, and then head back to their country leaving behind a trail of blood.

“The blood from our cattle is used to nourish the population of Zimbabwean cattle,” he said.

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Nkomba warned this vicious cycle of death can only be broken by fixing the border fence.

He told The Voice that over 120 cows are suspected to have been driven into Zimbabwe by rustlers since 2022.

“This is simply because there’s no fence at the border,” he said.

Another farmer, commenting on condition of anonymity, warned if the issue is not addressed, cattle herders will be reluctant to report their cattle that might have been exposed to the FMD virus.

”We’ve always been responsible citizens despite the great loss we suffer. We report our own cattle to officials knowing very well that they’ll be shot. In future, I fear farmers will be reluctant to do this,” he said.

“We’re in a green zone. Why would government kill cattle in a safe zone and allow infected cattle from Zimbabwe to roam freely. This does not make sense, and is not sustainable,” he said.

The irate farmer, who lost five beasts on Saturday, and still has about 11 other cows spotted in Zim, said government should kill all cattle from Zimbabwe coming into the country to protect her own cattle population.

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To add to their anger, the farmers are likely to receive P700 compensation from government for each of their killed cows, way less than their market value of around P2, 000 – P3, 000.

In the last six years Botswana veterinary officials have shot and incinerated over 600 cattle which strayed from Bulilima West-Zimbabwe. Botswana, being a major supplier of beef to the European Union, is always on high alert of an outbreak of FMD which could jeopardise her prized export.

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