The Sunday Mail
MORE than 30 000 cattle from areas bordering Botswana crossed into the neighbouring country in the last seven months, renewing fears Gaborone officials will be forced to invoke a law that compels them to kill and destroy the animals.
Matabeleland South veterinary officer in the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services, Dr Enat Mdlongwa, said the number of cattle crossing the border to Botswana has alarmingly increased over the last few months.
“We need to engage our farmers in terms of these animals crossing over our border because if we do not, authorities in Botswana will start invoking their Animal Diseases Act (Chapter 37), which gives them the mandate of destroying our animals. So, we need to be talking to our farmers to look after their animals on Zimbabwean territory. We have no control whatsoever in terms of the Botswana territory,” he said.
Statistics from the department showed that in January, 10 869 cattle from Zimbabwe moved into Botswana.
Comparatively, in July last year, only 779 beasts strayed into Botswana, followed by 1 533 in August, September (2 891), October (3 793), November (3 503) and December (6 977).
Dr Mdlongwa attributed the movement to progressively declining grazing land due to the 2018/2019 drought, especially in areas near Northern Tuli Game Reserve.
“There is an indication that probably because of the drought that encroached into 2020, the numbers (of cattle crossing over to Botswana) have started going up again … there are a lot of repeat animals crossing . . . especially at the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. The Northern Tuli Game Reserve, in terms of land use in Botswana, is a livestock-free zone. They (Botswana officials) don’t want to see any livestock in that area and for that reason, there is some bit of grass that is growing in that area. Our animals normally cross over there and on average authorities there are saying they are pushing out over a 1 000 animals back to our side,” he said.
Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex) Matabeleland South provincial crop and livestock officer Ms Simangaliphi Ngwabi said Gaborone could not tolerate stray cattle as it was actively making efforts to protect its beef exports to the European Union (EU).
“It has been the norm over the years that communal farmers push their cattle across the border for relief grazing, especially during drought but over the last few years there have been campaigns against such practices as Botswana authorities have insisted that they will shoot any cattle, which will stray into their territory in a bid to protect their EU certification,” she said. In 2016, Botswana shot and burnt more than 400 cattle that strayed into that country from Zimbabwe.
Last year, over 1 000 cattle from Gwanda and Bulilima West constituency were also shot and incinerated by the Batswana authorities.
Contacted for a comment, Botswana Central provincial veterinary officer Dr Jaone Sebina confirmed that there was illegal movement of cattle from both countries across the border.
He, however, noted that the largest number was that of Zimbabwean animals crossing over to the Botswana side.
“Cattle between Botswana and Zimbabwe cross either direction, but a majority of the cattle are from Zimbabwe coming into Botswana, for whatever reason. The two countries as you know have a common border — the Shashe River — which is a broad river that divides Botswana and Zimbabwe…,” he said.
Dr Sebina said as part of stopping cattle from crossing or spreading diseases into Zimbabwe, the Botswana government had enacted a disease control barrier or colon fence, which is, however, perennially destroyed by elephants as they move across the two countries, while part of it is alleged to have been vandalised and stolen by villagers living along the border.