Cattle Rustling Syndicates Shatter Dreams Of Gwanda Livestock Farmers
Gwanda South villagers lament about the increase of stock theft in the area. Image by The Citizen Bulletin
Livestock production is the major source of income as soil fertility is low and crop husbandry does not do well.
GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) — Already reeling under the impacts of low rainfall and soil infertility for crop husbandry, now Cannicious Nkala of Gwanda South in Matabeleland South has to contend with another threat of thieves raiding his cattle.
Because of the area’s arid conditions, the land is best suited for raising livestock. Like other communal farmers, Nkala has invested in livestock production, one of the major economic drivers in the province where crop husbandry does not do well.
Over the years, Nkala has seen his herd of cattle dwindle under the pressure of persistent drought, debilitating bovine diseases and an unprecedented string of cattle thefts.
Many other farmers across the country share his plight.
As recently as January 30, a total of 33 beasts were stolen in Gwanda South’s ward 24.
“An operation conducted by Botswana farmers, Tuli camp police and ward 24 anti-stock theft team in Gwanda South recovered a slaughtered beast in the bush and 8 beasts,” Nkala says.
“About 33 other beats are still missing and they are still trying to track them around the Ngoma area.”
Matabeleland South Anti Stock Theft Association Chairman Victor Sibanda says the stock theft cases were alarming.
“What worries us is that all those guys who were arrested after we apprehended them have been given bail, and they are still terrorizing people around the area,” Sibanda says.
Stock theft carries stiffer penalties.
Stealing one beast carries a 9-year jail sentence. Image by The Citizen Bulletin
In a move aimed to deter would-be offenders, the government passed the stock-theft Act in 2005 with stiffer penalties for cattle rustling.
But Sibanda says fighting stock theft has been difficult as the syndicates allegedly work with the police.
“The syndicates are always armed with machetes, and are not shy to engage in deadly violence,” he adds. “In August one of our anti-stock theft team members was severely injured by the criminals. As I am talking some are still in wheelchairs.”
“Recently, one of our elders in Ward 18, Shakes Ncube was attacked during the night and his car was stolen. He lost his eye. A lot of things are happening but the police are failing even to apprehend those thugs, we wonder why.”
In November, police launched an operation targeting stock theft and other related cases.
During the operation, police in Tuli recovered a total of 15 cattle at Ngoma village that were stolen from Botswana.
One villager, Castro Ndlovu of Nhwali area was found in possession of 25 stolen cattle during the operation. He is behind bars.
Matabeleland South Police Spokesperson Inspector Loveness Mangena says she had no reports of involvement of law enforcement agents in stock theft cases.
“I will check with the concerned station and comment to you,” she says.
Efforts to get feedback from her later on the criminal activities involving the police were fruitless.
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In October 2021, police invited farmers to visit Gwanda Show Grounds to identify 65 of 98 herds of cattle that were recovered from the cattle rustling hotspots in Gwanda South.
A total 12 donkeys were also recovered during the operation.
An investigation by The Citizen Bulletin reveals that Shanyaugwe, John Dip, Gohole, Collen Bawn, Makhado, West Nicholson, Ngoma and Guyu have been notorious for cattle rustling since 2000.
In some instances, the cattle rustlers slaughter the beasts in the bush and carry the meat for sale at butcheries and restaurants where there is a ready market.
Villager Calvin Moyo says it's time the presidency steps in.
“We are appealing to you with grief with what is happening at ZRP Guyu, Gwanda District, Matabeleland South province. The police officers are highly corrupt which is against your vision 2030 mantra,” Moyo writes to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“We pray for you to intervene and help us, please.”
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Social and Economic justice, Local government, Gwanda
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