Police under scrutiny over livestock theft 

Source: Police under scrutiny over livestock theft | The Herald

Police under scrutiny over livestock theft
Minister Kazembe

Mashudu Netsianda

Bulawayo Bureau

A crackdown has been launched on police officers linked to organised rustling syndicates that operate along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border leading to the arrest of some suspects and their subsequent dismissal.

A majority of the police officers were also redeployed pending investigations. Theft of livestock, which is a growing challenge for people along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border, prompted President Mnangagwa to set up an inter-ministerial committee to tackle rampant cross-border rustling.

The move is in response to concerns raised during the recent third session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Victoria Falls.

The committee was given up to April 30, 2022, to contain the situation.

President Mnangagwa and his Batswana counterpart, Mokgweetsi Masisi, last month oversaw the signing of several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) covering various sectors during the third session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana BNC.

The third session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana BNC also resolved that there was a need to expedite the establishment of base camps along the Mlambaphele Border and must be fully resourced and be in sync with the ones established in Botswana.

The inter-ministerial committee comprising of Ministers Kazembe Kazembe (Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage), Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri (Defence and War Veterans Affairs), July Moyo (Local Government and Public Works) and 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), recently visited Mlambaphele Border Post in Gwanda District in Matabeleland South to interface with the affected communities.

The province 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 for cattle rustlers.

In an interview, Minister Kazembe, who chairs the committee, said the crackdown on police linked to rustling followed concerns raised by the affected communities.

“What we can promise the affected communities is that Government is definitely doing something to curb the scourge. As I speak, some of the police officers involved or linked to the cattle rustling have been shown the door while others have been transferred to other stations,” he said.

“Some of them have since been arrested and investigations are still going on. Those arrested will appear in court soon. A lot is happening to address that problem and as directed by the President, by April 30, 2022, we would have done a lot to try and curb that scourge.”

Minister Kazembe could not give the figures of those arrested.

“I don’t have the actual figures of the arrests, but what I can say is that the majority of those who were working in that area, although not caught on the wrong side of the law, have been transferred,” he said.

Minister Kazembe said various ministries, which are part of the inter-ministerial committee, are working towards addressing the challenges.

“There is a lot that is happening behind the scenes since the inter-ministerial committee was set up. After our visit to Mlambaphele Border Post to have an appreciation of the challenges that the local communities are facing, we prepared a report, which will be presented to Cabinet,” he said.

“We have also come up with some recommendations as to how we should proceed in dealing with this issue in line with the directive by the President.

“Some of the things that we have already started doing is setting up police bases and work has started to see how best police can have communication gadgets.”

Minister Kazembe said the Government has adopted a zero tolerance to rustling and vowed that those involved with rustling syndicates will account for their crimes.

“We will, with the help of local communities, do all we can so that we bring this menace to a halt. In the spirit of re-engagement and good neighbourliness, we shall intensify our efforts towards our collaboration,” he said.

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.

The country’s porous borders contribute to the problem. Large parts of the border fences are stolen, destroyed by elephants making monitoring long boundaries and mountainous terrain difficult for police.

This creates many opportunities and trafficking routes for criminal networks to smuggle livestock.