The Sunday News
THE livestock species play very important economic, social and cultural roles or functions for rural households as they contribute to improve income and well-being of the family.
Livestock helps in food supply, family nutrition, family income, asset savings, soil productivity, livelihoods, transport, agricultural traction, agricultural diversification and sustainable agricultural production, family and community employment, ritual purposes and social status (Moyo et al, 2010).
Livestock functions can be classified in several ways. According to The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (ILRI, 1995), two widely used classifications are based on the kinds of output produced or in the uses in which these outputs are put on. Among the kinds of output produced it should be mentioned the food, inputs to cropping, and raw materials.
Among output uses, subsistence consumption by the livestock holder’s household, direct supply of inputs, cash income through sales of live animals or their output, savings and investment and social functions such as paying bride wealth, or providing animals for communal feasts or sacrifices can be pointed out.
Another classification divides livestock functions in economic roles such as source of cash income and means of savings accumulation, direct feed use for family subsistence, input supply such as fertiliser and animal draught and capacity to comply with a set of social rules and obligations, experts say.
From the above statements, it becomes much clearer that livestock, especially cattle, are central to people’s lives, especially in rural areas. As a result, communal farmers would go to lengths to protect their animals from thieves or any form of danger. We note that villagers in Gwanda District, Matabeleland South province were in recent months living in fear that all their cattle will be wiped out by thieves who had set base at Shanawugwe.
The area had been notorious for harbouring cattle rustlers and if anyone went to the area looking for their livestock, they were subjected to a thorough beating.
Nonetheless, we commend the police for taking the matter seriously and raiding the area, leading to the arrest of hordes of suspects. After the raid, police also recovered 16 cattle and seven donkeys suspected to have been stolen from surrounding areas.
A suspect, Prince Dube alias Vusa Mutopini, was arrested for stocktheft while 55 others were picked for offences that included public violence after they reportedly attacked livestock owners that were looking for their missing beasts.
The operation, code-named, Lets Fight Stock Thieves/Asilwiseni Amasela Ezifuyo, was undertaken by more than 100 police officers, some on horseback, and some with dogs in the last week of September. The 16 cattle recovered are worth US$4 800 while the seven donkeys are valued at $28 700. A car, a Ford Ranger, was left behind by one of the suspected stock thieves as he fled with police in hot pursuit.
Acting Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson Sergeant Stanford Mguni told Sunday News that 11 of the cattle had been recovered from suspected rustler Dube. After the operation, the recovered cattle were put on parade at Shanyawugwe Shopping Centre for the owners to identify.
Sgt Mguni said by Friday last week, five cattle and five donkeys had been identified by their owners. He said the other 55 people were arrested for attacking cattle owners that were going around searching for their livestock.
Shanyawugwe has earned a reputation as the stocktheft “headquarters of the province”. In the past month, there has been news circulating on social media relating to massive stock theft incidents in Gwanda District.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi recently ordered an official inquiry into livestock theft on his country’s border with Zimbabwe.
“The terms of reference for the commission of inquiry is to establish the problem of livestock rustling in the Bobirwa villages along the Botswana/Zimbabwe border and determine the extent of the problem,” a statement accompanying the appointment of the commission read.