Plumtree – THE fencing around many of Zimbabwe’s ranches and breeding herds has not been maintained, or has been stolen, over the past few years.
Botswana says it is shooting Zimbabwe cattle which stray across its border to protect its beef exports to the European Union (EU).
Zimbabwe farmers are furious and say that 400 healthy animals which crossed the unfenced border were shot by Botswana officials last month. But they’re getting no sympathy from their own government.
Botswana says its exports to the EU are vitally important and it cannot risk any of its cattle contracting foot and mouth disease from Zimbabwe cattle.
The fencing around many of Zimbabwe’s ranches and breeding herds has not been maintained, or has been stolen, over the past few years.
Previously strict controls on movement of cattle have not been maintained in southern Zimbabwe since so much agricultural infrastructure collapsed as the economy shrunk after thousands of productive white farmers were evicted from their properties from 2000 onwards.
Zimbabwe’s livestock production department in the agriculture ministry says that more then 400 cattle were shot and carcasses burned, and the worst affected district was Beitbridge which borders both Botswana and South Africa.
Paddy Zhanda, deputy agriculture and mechanisation minister responsible for livestock, told Zimbabwe journalists that the shooting of the cattle was bad, but he insisted farmers living along the Botswana border should look after their livestock.
“It [the shooting] is not nice, people should look after their cattle to avoid losses. We might need to visit the affected areas soon to sensitise them,” he said.
Provincial livestock specialist Simangaliphi Ngwabi told the Sunday News in Bulawayo that farmers had to ensure their cattle did not stray: “We can’t put the blame on Botswana for shooting our cattle because they issued a three-months warning before starting the shooting.
“They can’t risk losing their EU export licence because our farmers have let their cattle cross their borders. Their economy is largely driven by trading in beef; business is business and as such we shouldn’t play a part in them losing their EU quota.
“We therefore advise our farmers to adhere to proper livestock management which entails checking the movement of their animals from time to time,” she said.
But cattlemen in the south say they don’t have money to repair fences or put in new ones and they can’t borrow money from any bank or the government to ensure their herds stay inside Zimbabwe.
“These guys don’t have any cash and the grazing is very short on our side of the border so the animals are crossing into Botswana, that is true. But they can’t do anything about it,” said a businessman in Bulawayo who is familiar with the beef trade in this area.
“Zimbabwe lost its beef export contract to the EU a few years ago because we could no longer satisfy its demands re foot and mouth,” he said.