Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
Police in Gwanda have recovered four cattle suspected to have been stolen from Botswana.
The cattle were found at Hampden Farm in Gwanda District following a tip-off from members of the public.
Police recovered the cattle and noted new brand marks which belong to a serial cattle rustler.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the incident.
He said a complainant from Botswana positively identified the cattle as part of his stolen 70 beasts.
“Police recovered the cattle and noted new brand marks on the cattle which belong to a serial cattle rustler prompting an investigation,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe and Botswana have agreed to electronically tag cattle for communities living along the border and the programme is set to be pioneered at Mlambaphele border area in Gwanda District, Matabeleland South province.
The latest development is part of a raft of measures agreed during the recent third session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Victoria Falls following an increase in stock theft cases along the border.
Matabeleland South 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.
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 is sold to the public from people’s houses.
President Mnangagwa has since set up an inter-ministerial committee to tackle rampant cross-border cattle rustling along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border.
The inter-ministerial committee is chaired by Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe.
Other committee members include Ministers Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri (Defence and War Veterans Affairs), July Moyo (Local Government and Public Works), 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).
Minister Kazembe said Zimbabwe and Botswana agreed to devise and explore ways aimed at curbing stock theft.
“Zimbabwe and Botswana agreed that there is a need to electronically tag the cattle along the border, especially here at Mlambaphele where this programme is going to be pioneered. We need to urgently address this issue of cattle rustling as per agreements made by two countries during the third session of Bi-National Commission last month,” he said.
Minister Kazembe said since cattle rustling is affecting communities on both sides of the border, there is a need for the two countries to jointly address it.
He said the Government is also working towards decentralising the data capturing system for cattle.
“There is a need to localise the data capturing system because real time communication is very important when it comes to fighting this scourge of stock theft,” said Minister Kazembe.
It is reported that 30 Botswana farmers reportedly cross into the Zimbabwean side through Mlambaphele Border Post to look for their stolen cattle.
While the problem has been perennial, livestock rustling is no longer ordinary, but now reportedly involves violent seizure of animals by armed people as it has developed into a well-organised crime involving vandalism and theft of veterinary fence especially on the Botswana side of the border where most of the domestic animals are stolen.
Matabeleland South provincial veterinary officer, Dr Enat Mdlongwa said Gwanda District continued to record an increase in the number of stray cattle, some of which are believed to have been stolen.
“When it comes to stray cattle, we have so many animals and the local authority report the animals to police who then keep them in their custody. If no one claims them after three months they are then sold through an auction,” he said.