Relocate or kill us with our cattle
Two angry female farmers from Matshelagabedi are adamant that they would rather die than allow their cattle to be shot.
The disgruntled grannies, Dikeledi Mmereki, 54 and Annah Mojabana, 64, have threatened to act as human shields to prevent the government from either slaughtering their cattle or selling them to Zimbabwe.
They are part of the 19 farmers set to take the Botswana government to the High Court in Lobatse on Thursday in a desperate attempt to stop the slaughter and sale of their cattle following an outbreak of the Foot and Mouth disease in the North East area, four months ago.
In a protest against the way the government was fighting FMD, the two old women walked into Voice offices in Francistown last week to narrate how they were planning to stand in front of their cattle to block officials from either killing or loading the Zimbabwe bound livestock into trucks.
“It seems the government doesn’t want us here, so we suggest that they negotiate with Zimbabwe to relocate us there together with our cattle, instead of treating us like second class citizens in what is supposed to be our own country,” said Mmereki
Expressing suspicions that government was on a sinister mission to impoverish the farmers from the northeast in order to create an exclusive market at the Francistown Botswana Meat Commission for cattle barons in the Serowe and Palapye region,
Mmeriki said, “Our cattle have not shown any signs of the disease, and we want the Ministry of Agriculture to leave them alone. Even the veterinary officials have told us that our cattle do not have signs of FMD.
“If indeed some cattle in other kraals were infected, we still don’t understand why the same officials can not treat those particular cattle for foot and mouth, the same way they did with the cattle in the Bobirwa zone,” Mmereki said
Battling tears, a frustrated Mojabana who is set to lose 77 cattle in the operation, lamented that in 2002 during a outbreak of the same disease, the veterinary officers assured the Matshelagabedi farmers that killing of cattle was going to rid the area of the disease once and for all.
“They promised that after killing our cattle, FMD was not going to attack our livestock ever again. But here we are a mere eight years later and the disease has resurfaced and we are set to lose yet again before we could even reap the benefits of our livestock, which we spent a fortune fattening.
Our livestock is being sacrificed for the sake of boosting Serowe and Palapye farmers,” charged Mojabana.
Complaining that the veterinary officers had instructed them to drive their own cattle to the river next to the border, Mmereki said, “Look at how old we are! Do we look like we still have the strength to drive cattle to the said pick up point, which is about eight to nine kilometers away? We are not taking any of our beasts there, the veterinary department will have to use another strategy.”
Meanwhile another farmer in the same area, Savvy Toi Toi has urged his colleagues to stay calm and cooperate with the government in the fight against FMD.
“Government workers who went on strike recently over salary increments are the ones using the FMD issue to cause confusion in retaliation. That is why they are inciting farmers by lying to them that their cattle don’t have foot and mouth. I urge
Batswana to accept that the disease is here and that government is on our side.
“I want to further appeal to my colleagues to remember that the government has to do all in its capacity to protect the country’s access to the European Union market, which is being threatened by the outbreak of the disease.
“Let’s not forget that the beef industry has benefitted greatly from the EU market and our country has become what it is partly because of such benefit,” Toi Toi said.