THIS week I will discuss a subject which has been deliberated on before but continues to be a pain for farmers especially those wishing to sell their livestock. This is the issue of compliance procedure more specifically the issue of police clearances.
Let us begin by establishing a few ground truths about this issue. Truth number one is that stock theft is one of the biggest problem in most districts in the Matabeleland region. I usually take time to check the colourful crime statistics charts that police officers generously display in their offices. It is very painful for a farmer to lose his/her investment in livestock through porous clearance systems. Therefore, it is without doubt that the stringent clearing process was actually crafted with a singular objective of protecting the investment of farmers from unscrupulous human beings who are constantly preying on the sweat of others. The other truth that we need to agree on is that police as a department are not the most suitable department to do livestock clearances and it is not the only appropriate department to do it.
For the avoidance of doubt, livestock clearing simply means taking all precautionary and verification measures to ensure that the animal that is being cleared to be sold or transferred ownership actually belongs to the one who claims to own it. This can be done by any dully delegated officer who has been appropriately armed with right tools. The issue of contention here is that the Zimbabwe Republic Police, anti-stock theft unit does not have the capacity to effectively reach out to the community for them to provide this service. In some cases the farmer will be more than 40 kilometres from the nearest police station.
Imagine two neighbouring smallholder farmers that merely want to swap animals among themselves, for example exchanging an ox for a heifer. These two have to clear these animals with the police which is 40 kilometres away. The two farmers have no car to go and pick the police officer and the officer also does not have a vehicle to visit these farmers. It’s a pain. Just last weekend I drove 35 kilometres to try and get a police officer to clear an animal which I bought and the base station in Mangwe District was deserted and there were two other farmers who had also driven. No one was manning the station because the officer(s) was alleged to have gone to Pumtree Town two days before.
Needless to say that was a wasted effort and fuel on my part. However, if this task of livestock clearing is given to Government extension workers such as Agritex or DLPD officers, these can be more accessible as they are usually represented at every ward. If anything they know these animals better because they work with these farmers everyday providing extension advisory services.
It is easier for farmers to dupe police officers into believing that they are the genuine owners of the animal in question because the officer does not know the animal and they merely rely on the stock card which says nothing other than the category of the animal, that is, is it a cow, ox or bull.
The police also rely on a witness who is a village head to confirm knowledge of the animal and if the village head is compromised, the animal is gone. I am aware that there is a strong move towards using personal brand marks for clearing animals and that will be useful in minimising stock theft.
However, the appeal to powers that be is for them not to only consider protecting theft of stock but also to balance it with ease of doing business, livestock clearance in this matter. How can we make the process more accessible, less costly and yet still watertight to avoid theft. The current clearing process is painful to say the least. You get to the station and you are told the clearance book has gone out with another officer who has gone to clear for another farmer and you have to wait until they come back with the book because now they are not allowed to pull out pages from the book.
Some police officers are also not enthusiastic about livestock clearance and they can bounce you from one officer to another.
This is a call to the farmers union to lobby Government for better, accessible and user friendly livestock clearing process without compromising the intention. Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo.
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