Saturday, November 26, 2022

Fifteen Zone Six farmers get temporary relief

Lobatse High Court judge, Justice Lot Moroka, on Thursday interdicted government from selling or slaughtering cattle of 15 Zone Six farmers after they approached the Court to stop the sell and the slaughter.

The case is a sequel to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Zone Six and subsequent decision by government to slaughter and sell some the infected cattle to Zimbabwe.

In their papers filed with the court, the applicants sought the court to interdict government from selling or slaughtering their cattle and review the decision of the Minister of Agriculture, Christiaan De Graaff, to slaughter and or sell their cattle to Zimbabwe as wrongful, unreasonable, improper without basis and generally unlawful.

They also sought the court to declare the refusal of government to accede to their request to have their cattle vaccinated unlawful as well as declaring the decision by government to sell their cattle to Zimbabwe when cattle in other areas were being vaccinated as discriminatory and unconstitutional.

In his affidavit, Antony Mokone deposed that he stood to suffer negatively from the government decision.

He deposed that after the discovery of FMD in the Matsiloje area, a buffer was erected between Matsiloje and Matshelagabedi to prevent movement of cattle between the two areas and to prevent the spread of the disease from the affected area (Matsiloje) to the non-affected area (Matshelagabedi).

Mokone said after an inspection was done by the veterinary services department, the Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Orreditse Molebatsi, informed the residents of Matshelagabedi/Sekukwe that there was no FMD in their area at a kgotla meeting on June 20.

He said the assistant minister further assured them their cattle would be vaccinated and a team from the Veterinary Department would be sent to carry out the exercise.

“This was to be done in order to prevent our cattle getting infected. Again we relied on what the assistant minister told us, and were assured by what he said. We have been. And are still waiting for the day our cattle will be vaccinated,” deposed Mokone.

The deponent further said contrary to the agreement, veterinary officials later came and advised them that a decision had been taken to kill their cattle and sell some to Zimbabwe.

“This came as a surprise to me and indeed other farmers in light of the fact that our animals had been found not to be infected,” said Mokone.

He added that after they queried, the officials promised to go and consult and then revert with a definite position but afterwards there was no communication as earlier undertaken and none came until they heard on the radio and Btv that a decision had been taken by government that their animals were going to be killed and some sold to Zimbabwe and they would be compensated at a rate of P 1700 per beast, regardless of the breed or animal size.

“This instilled a sense of shock in me and other applicants and had me wondering why such a drastic decision could have been taken, particularly considering that our cattle had been found not to be infected with foot and mouth disease and after being assured that our cattle would be vaccinated,” said Mokone in his founding affidavit.

He said they then wrote to the minister and the President requesting to see him (President) in order to articulate their grievances and problems relating to the FMD and the decision to kill their cattle and selling to Zimbabwe without consulting them. This was intended to request the President to reverse those decisions.

The applicants, however, on July 21 met with delegates from the National Strategy Office where they enquired as to why a decision had been taken to sell or kill their cattle when they showed no signs of infection and why they were not heard before a decision was taken and whether the decision only affected them and not farmers in Zone Seven where a discovery of the disease was realized.

The gripe of the farmers is further that they are being discriminated against as cattle in Zone Seven are not being killed or sold to Zimbabwe and further why government has reneged on its initial decision to vaccinate the cattle and, alternatively, if it is expensive why they are not allowed to vaccinate at their own cost.

The matter will be heard for argument next Tuesday as the court has in the meantime suspended the killing and the sale of the cattle of the applicants.

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