Walter Mswazie, Masvingo Correspondent
A MASVINGO farmer is set to lose a herd of 80 cattle valued at about $50 000, which will be destroyed by the Government after he allegedly illegally moved 20 beasts from foot and mouth disease (FMD)-hit Mwenezi district to his farm.
The 20 heifers are suspected to have infected 60 head of cattle at the farm.
Mr Onesmo Mukumba allegedly bought 20 heifers from Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi and moved them to his Windcrest Farm in Masvingo East, about 20 km from Masvingo City.
Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development deputy Minister responsible for livestock Paddy Zhanda confirmed the development and clarified government’s position on farmers who illegally move animals from FMD-hit areas.
He said what the farmer in question did was illegal and destroying his cattle is the only way out as government is committed towards restricting the spread of FMD.
Deputy Minister Zhanda said all farmers should abide by the law adding that Mr Mukumba acted in a selfish manner.
“It is true that the Department of Veterinary Services in Masvingo will destroy some cattle which were taken from an FMD red zone in Mwenezi District to Masvingo District which is a green zone. We want to restrict the spread of FMD in the country but our efforts are scuttled by such people who illegally move cattle,” said Deputy Minister Zhanda.
He said the government is simply implementing the law and not demonstrating “cruelty”.
“The farmer in question is a selfish individual who wants to cost government huge sums of money in the procurement of vaccines. We are not being cruel but simply applying the law,” Deputy Minister Zhanda said.
He said the country is already losing a lot of potential revenue in beef exports to the EU and other foreign countries because of FMD, hence the full application of the law to offenders was justified.
The estimated economic loss suffered by government as a result of FMD, said Deputy Minister Zhanda, is in the region of $1.8 billion per year if the disease is not controlled.
He said the farmer was expected to seek permission from the Department of Veterinary services in the district to move his cattle but he ignored the government directive.
Government has not yet relaxed the ban on movement of cattle in all FMD-hit districts in the country with those who want to move their cattle required to consult the Department of Veterinary services first.
Contacted for comment at his farm yesterday, Mr Mukumba said he was seeking a legal recourse over the matter and maintained that what he did was above board.
“We did not break any law. I have a sister called (Ms) Sandy Mukumba who asked me to look for 20 white heifers all valued at $20 000,” said Mr Mukumba.
He said he got the heifers from Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi.
“The animals were medically examined by the Department of Veterinary services. I was then issued with a permit to move the cattle from Mwenezi to my farm in Masvingo,” said Mr Mukumba.
He said when the animals were at his farm sometime in July, one of them fell ill and the whole flock was treated using vaccines bought from the Department of Veterinary services.
“Trouble started when one of the heifers fell sick. This is when these stories came up accusing me of having illegally moved FMD-hit cattle from Mwenezi district to Masvingo which is a green zone,” said Mr Mukumba.
“I’m seeking legal recourse over the matter because my sister’s heifers cannot be destroyed. They were treated and I have not mixed them with the other 60 cattle which were already on the farm.”
Masvingo Beef farmers Association chairman Mr Robert Makado appealed to government to be “humane” and spare the farmer.
“While we understand that the farmer committed a serious crime, we appeal to the powers that be to have a human heart and stop destroying the cattle. The heifers were treated at a cost of $5 a dose per animal and we feel this should be considered,” said Mr Makado.
FMD is a highly infectious disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals like cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer.
The disease is not considered zoonotic, meaning infected animals cannot transmit it to human beings.
FMD is a painful and debilitating infection that causes fever as well as blisters primarily on the feet and mouth of infected animals within one to 10 days of exposure to the virus.
In Zimbabwe, FMD is prevalent in Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South provinces.