Botswana farmers threaten to invade Zimbabwe to root out stock theft

GABORONE – Residents of Bobirwa are threatening to invade Zimbabwe to root out stock theft criminal syndicates that have paralyzed the lives of the farmers in the Bobirwa constituency if the government does not intervene immediately.

The threats came following rampant stock theft cases that have reached a point where villagers can no longer stomach.

It is understood that some farmers are threatening to take their own weapons and cross into Zimbabwe to look for cattle rustlers who they suspect are involved in massive stock thefts that have hit the Bobirwa area, especially villages that are close to the boundary line between Botswana and Zimbabwe.

It is reported that the farmers have abandoned their boreholes and kraals and relocated to other areas where they think their livestock will be safe.

Farmers are said to have resorted to penning their livestock in the morning and releasing them in the evening to graze because, in the morning, livestock theft is more rampant, as compared to evenings.

Bobirwa residents have sent a delegation to the Office of the President where they met the vice president over the issue. It is said the Vice president promised to act on their demands.

Speaking to Sunday Standard on Friday, the councilor of Bobirwa North East, Kimbele Malesela, who was part of the delegation that met the Vice President said, “Stock theft in our area has reached a point that we can no longer condone.”
He threatened that if the government does not intervene promptly, residents would be left with no choice but to take the law in to their own hands, adding that nobody would want to reach that stage.

Malesela said this crisis has reached a point where farmers now have relocated their livestock to other areas where they feel is safer but the situation is not getting better; the stock thieves are following.

He added that farmers had left their boreholes and kraals on which they had spent a lot of money to build.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be terrorized by thieves for our own properties.”

Malesela pleaded with the government to respond to the issue before it is too late.

Keabetse Mokgethi, the headman of Kobajango Village said, “The situation that we are facing is heart breaking.”
He said only this month about 64 goats and over 40 herds of cattle were stolen and driven to the Zimbabwean side, adding that the residents had already relocated to other areas because of the rampant stock theft.

“You can see how huge the problem is now; if the area is hit by soil erosion, as is already happening, where will we take our livestock to graze?” he asked.

The station commander of Semolale, Superintendent Oeme Tankane, said that stock theft in his area of jurisdiction is “very worrisome”, adding that there are several criminal syndicates comprised of Zimbabweans who are involved in the stock thefts.

Tankane said they had established the black markets where Botswana livestock is being sold in Zimbabwe.
He said they communicated with their counterparts in Zimbabwe about the issue and requested assistance with information that might lead to the apprehending of the suspects.

The Police Superintended further said that they had intensified their patrols along the boundary even though the arrests are minimal.

Saying that the boundary fence is often cut, he appealed to the public to always inform the police about suspicious people in the area.

Meanwhile, in a similar case, two kids sustained serious burns and are hospitalized after a mob in Mmathethe Village in Ngwaketse South allegedly set alight a house whose owner they suspected to be part of a cattle rustling syndicate that steals livestock in their area.

The parents are reported to have escaped with minor injuries.

Detective superintendent David Maruatona confirmed the incident saying they are investigating the incident, adding that they had not arrested any one in connection with the incident.

Reuben Mosala, Headman of Records in Mmathethe Tribal Administration, said his village is also hit by stock theft.

He explained that a resident in Mathethe was investigated by the police recently over 60 herds of cattle that were found in his kraal. Later, however, the cattle were released to him because there was not sufficient evidence against him and this angered the villagers who took the law into their own hands.

Mosala said a house in which four people were sleeping was set alight by a mob and the house was burned to ashes.
He said before the incident, an anonymous letter was found at the tribal offices in which the authors of the letter stated clearly that they were going to set alight three houses owned by people who they suspected to be involved in stock theft.

“As the tribal authority, we condemn such acts but people should not take the law into their own hands even though we understand the pain that they go through when their livestock is stolen.

He urged the public to report suspects to either “bogosi” or the police. The Sunday Standard