Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has set up an inter-ministerial committee to tackle rampant cross-border cattle rustling along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border in response to concerns raised during the recent third session of the
Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Victoria Falls.
The committee was given up to April 30, 2022 to contain the situation.
Theft of livestock is a growing challenge for farmers along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border.
President Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, last month oversaw the signing of several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) covering various sectors during the third session of the Zimbabwe-
Botswana BNC as the two neighbouring countries seek to ratify bilateral agreements that will promote cooperation.
An inter-ministerial committee comprising of Ministers Kazembe Kazembe (Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage), Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri (Defence and War Veterans Affairs), July Moyo (Local Government and Public Works) and Mangaliso Ndlovu (Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry), Professor Mthuli Ncube (Finance and Economic Development) and Dr Anxious Masuka (Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development), yesterday visited Mlambaphele Border Post in Gwanda District in Matabeleland South to interface with the affected communities.
The province continues to record high cases of stock theft with areas like Tshanyaugwe Nhwali, Mlambaphele, Guyu, Manama, Mankonkoni Rustlers Gorge and Ngoma being identified among the hotspots for cattle rustlers.
Minister Kazembe, who chairs the committee, yesterday led the ministerial delegation together with Police-Commissioner General Godwin Matanga and other local service chiefs to Mlambaphele Border Post where stolen cattle from Botswana are smuggled into the country.
He said during the third session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana BNC, it was resolved that there was a need to heighten simultaneous joint operations between security agencies from the two countries to combat the scourge of stocktheft along the borderline.
“It is very important that we address this issue of cattle rustling as a matter of urgency. We had the third session of Bi-National Commission last month with Botswana during which our President and his Botswana counterpart met and discussed this issue and it was topical in the sense that it is affecting communities on both sides of the border,” said Minister Kazembe.
“President Mnangagwa then directed us to set up an inter-ministerial committee, which I am chairing and directed us to come down here and speak to the affected communities and find out exactly what the challenges are.
We were given terms of reference and from what we picked up on the ground, the issue is deeper than what we thought and the communities are not happy and living in fear because of these stock thieves.”
The third session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana BNC also resolved that there was a need to expediate the establishment of base camps along the Mlambaphele Border and must be fully resourced and be in sync with the ones established in Botswana.
“We were directed to contain the situation by April 30, 2022. It was also agreed that we should also equip the police base camps with communication systems including a common channel on digital radios by the same date,” said Minister Kazembe.
“It was also agreed that we should strengthen efforts aimed at identifying and disrupting sprouting markets for stolen stock in Matabeleland South and its neighbouring provinces as well as bolstering community policing programmes through robust support for cluster anti-stocktheft committees and traditional leaders.”
To review the progress made in the implementation of efforts by police chiefs from Zimbabwe and Botswana, Minister Kazembe said they were directed to visit the Mlambaphele area for the purpose of tracking progress.
Minister Kazembe said Government has adopted a zero tolerance to cattle rustling and vowed that those involved in the cattle rustling syndicates will account for their crimes.
“We will, with the help of local communities do all we can so that we bring this menace to a halt. In the spirit of re-engagement and good neighbourliness, we shall intensify our efforts towards our collaboration,” he said.
“This is a stern warning to all rustlers and would be rustlers across the country. We are here to get to the bottom of the problem by engaging key stakeholders on the ground so that we come up with robust solutions to this scourge and forward them to His Excellency president Mnangagwa for further guidance.”
Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs Minister Abednico Ncube said stocktheft continues to threaten livelihoods of locals who depend on livestock for survival.
“It is our fervent hope that this mission will assist in coming up with strategies to address cattle rustling and other security threatening situations such as smuggling of goods, illicit trafficking of minerals, poaching and drug trafficking,” he said.
Minister Ncube said the country’s porous and poorly secured borders contribute to the problem. Large parts of the border fences are stolen, destroyed by elephants making monitoring long boundaries and mountainous terrain difficult for police.
This creates many opportunities and trafficking routes for criminal networks to smuggle livestock.
The notorious cattle rustlers reportedly pounce on communities and change the brand marks of stolen cattle to evade justice. In some instances, they slaughter the beasts in the bush and carry the meat, some of which is allegedly supplied to butcheries while some of it is sold to the public from people’s houses.
Recently police arrested Nkosiyabo Gumbi (34) of Ngoma area in Gwanda for allegedly stealing 31 cattle from Botswana which he drove to his farm at Railway Block, West Nicholson. — @mashnets