ANALYSIS - Botswana acceded to Zimbabwe’s request to suspend a policy that was going to see the former’s security agents shooting to kill all cattle straying to their territory from the latter, writes Ian Nkala.
The radical policy, announced late March this year, was supposed to take effect on June 1.
Zimbabwe’s response to the plan was two-pronged. It rolled out an awareness campaign led by the deputy minister of agriculture and local legislators as well as lobbied the Botswana government to re-consider the policy.
Zimbabwe’s deputy minister of home affairs, Obedingwa Mguni said he was part of a delegation that engaged their Botswana counterparts.
“I was part of a government delegation that travelled to Botswana to engage our neighbours on their policy to shoot to kill all stray cattle from Zimbabwe,” said Mr Mguni, who is also legislator for Mangwe, a Zimbabwean constituency that runs along parts of the countries’ common border.
“I must say that it was not easy because they have an obligation to protect their cattle industry but in the end they were very understanding. They therefore agreed to suspend the policy that should have been implemented at the beginning of June.”
There is no border fence between the two countries so animals and people easily walk either way any time. This has made it easy for animal diseases to spread across the border.
Botswana argues that much of the cattle diseases in its north-eastern districts emanate from Zimbabwe, a country that has been riven by economic problems since 2000. This, the Botswana says, damages its cattle industry and lucrative exports to the European Union which used to consume an average of 70 per cent of the southern African country’s beef exports.
Zimbabwe has been struggling to control cattle diseases in recent years owing to the economic crisis. For example, a foot and mouth disease outbreak that was detected in April last year has not been contained.
A Zimbabwean livestock specialist, Mhlupheki Dube said Botswana could have agreed to suspend the plan because of resource constraints or considerations for good neighbourliness.
"Yes Zimbabwe lobbied against the plan and actually prepared for its implementation given that awareness campaign staged along the border but it is also possible that Botswana also considered the costs of doing so.
"It could also be that their neighbourly conscience told them that shooting cattle for only straying is wrong.
"Botswana has an umbilical cord with Zimbabwe along the border and people are relatives in those areas. Therefore it did not sound right for one to see his or her relatives’ wealth being destroyed just like that,” said Mr Dube.
Zimbabwe’s deputy minister of agriculture, Paddy Zhanda estimates that farmers on the Zimbabwean side of the border own about 90,000 cattle.
While the shoot to kill policy looked excessive according to Mr Dube, Botswana sells beef to discerning markets that prescribe high standards on animal health and traceability issues.
“The EU market demands certain bio-security standards, which are, from time to time, disrupted by cattle invasions from a risky zone,” he said.
“It is a way for them to preserve that market and their economy. However, the fact that they have suspended the plan does not mean that they will not resuscitate it in future. Therefore, our government needs to continue educating our farmers to always control the movement of their cattle.
"At the same time, we, as a country, have a lot to do in terms of investing in bio-security infrastructure and the health of our cattle to measure up to international standards.”
TheCattleSite News Desk