By Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE-BOTSWANA has started shooting stray Zimbabwean cattle, which authorities say is a way of curbing the spread of foot and mouth disease (FMD).
Aministry of agriculture official has confirmed that the shoot-to-kill policy was started in late August after it was initially put on hold at the request of the Zimbabwe government in May.
Botswana gave Zimbabwe a three-month grace period which elapsed in June, but following further consultations it was held in abeyance.
However, new reports from villages along Zimbabwe’s border with Botswana indicate that 36 head of cattle were shot while crossing into Botswana last month.
The Botswana government confirmed this week that it had begun an operation to cull Zimbabwe cattle which cross into Botswana, as a measure to fight the recurring FMD.
The nagging foot and mouth has blunted Botswana’s efforts to fully service the European Union (EU) market where the country exported 7,100 tonnes of beef in 2015 alone. But FMD outbreaks have seen exports suspended for periods.
“Our country has adopted a policy of killing stray cattle found along the boundary in order to bring the foot and mouth disease under control,” Kekgonne Baipoledi, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, said.
“This action commenced on August 26, 2016. It shall be appreciated that cattle from either side if found in restricted areas will be killed.”
He said cattle shot and killed are burnt and disposed of.
“Farming communities living along or near the boundary are advised to be vigilant, control the movement of their livestock as well as report any illegal activity or any signs of livestock showing signs of disease,” he said.
Zimbabwe had previously expressed misgivings over the new policy, which puts over 90,000 cattle in villages along the two countries’ border under immediate threat.
Immediate past Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) president, Donald Khumalo, said there was a need to come up with alternative measurers other than killing stray livestock.
During a visit to Mangwe district near the Botswana border recently, Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Paddington Zhanda, said Gaborone authorities had explained that stray cattle were affecting their beef exports as they were responsible for the spread of FMD.
He said villagers along the border had been urged to keep an eye on their livestock.