Nqobile Tshili Chronicle Correspondent
FARMERS have been urged to urgently take up personal branding as owning unbranded livestock will be illegal by the end of next year.
The police National Coordinator Anti-Stock Theft Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza yesterday said the government was carrying out a countrywide campaign to educate farmers ahead of the implementation of the law in 2018.
Speaking on the sidelines of cattle branding launch at Westacre Klipsring Dip Tank on the outskirts of Bulawayo, Snr Asst Comm Makodza said: “Branding is one of the biggest weapons in our arsenal against stocktheft. A branded animal can be positively identified by its owner anywhere in the country because there’s a national database for brands. It’s difficult for a thief to sell a branded animal.”
He said police were lobbying the government to impose more deterrent sentences of up to 18 years for people who knowingly buy stolen livestock.
“We’re recording about 20 cases of stock theft daily. This translates to about 7,200 cattle being stolen annually. Once people stop buying stolen livestock, rustling would decrease as thieves would have no market,” said Snr Asst Comm Makodza.
“So we’re saying to the government let’s give them times two the sentence being given to stock thieves because they’re the cause of the problem.”
At the moment, stock theft carries a mandatory nine year jail term per beast. Snr Asst Comm Makodza said cattle were a traditional source of wealth and their continued theft was affecting the government’s economic blueprint Zim-Asset cluster of food security.
He said stock thieves were threatening the national herd which was also being affected by the prevailing drought.
The Officer Commanding Bulawayo Province Senior Assistant Commissioner Stephen Mutamba, in a speech read on his behalf by Assistant Commissioner Lorraine Chitapo, emphasised the need for personal branding of cattle saying the province is holding 22 unbranded stray cattle which may soon be auctioned.
He hailed the business community for leading the fight against stock theft in Bulawayo peri-urban saying the partnership has resulted in a decrease in stock theft cases.