Monday, March 4, 2024

Has Police and DIS lost the fight against stock theft?

A few years ago Botswana Police was on the verge of getting its handle on stock theft.

Then, as now, Botswana Police was working closely with the intelligence services, DIS.

Then the two got derailed and started chasing their shadows.

Now stock theft is back with a bang, much bigger and much more complex and sophisticated than was the case before.

As was the case before, stock theft threatens the tapestry of national security.

We just have to look to other countries where cattle keepers had to take up arms to defend their livestock because they had lost hope and faith in the ability of the state to do it on their behalf.

Cattle rustlers are now brazen and more determined.

They kill many animals at a go, often belonging to one person.

They use cellphones to facilitate communication with their customers, often the informal sector cooks who do their trade in makeshift kitchens by the roadside

Of course butcheries are still involved, but the fact that their meat has to be certified inspectors is a little bit of a deterrent.

This roadside cooks, popularly known as bo mma-seapei or bo rra-seapei have become a serious evil among cattle owners. There are too many of these informal sector cooks. They buy a lot of meant. And this pushes demand up.

Cattle thieves are thus under pressure to  keep the supply side ongoing.

It is no coincidence that stock theft has become systemic. And on the rise too.

In fact the whole thing has not become like wild fire, totally out of control.

The troubling thing is that farmers believe security officers are themselves involved. And that they are often in cahoots with the big South African cattle barons based in Botswana who are involved in the cattle export trade to South Africa.

And too often, these barons traverse the farms , cattle posts and country at large to find cattle for buying.

There is nothing wrong with that.

But farmers have reasons to suspect that ion doing so, security officers too are involved.

Too often cattle with all the papers fully processed by government officials are found in possession of these South Africans or their workers or agents, clearly pointing a finger to government officials who process such documents.

Botswana Government should evaluate the efficacy of live cattle export to South Africa.

As far as we can make out, this has become a real national security threat.

The situation now is as bad as it can get.

A majority of Batswana continue to value their cattle.

Not only are these animals a source of livelihood, especially for the unemployed majority in the rural areas, but they are also valued deeply by people in the urban areas where many people use money from such sales to pay school fees but also and the like.

Farmers have been badly impoverished.

This affects the national herd too, especially because thieves often target even cattle that do breeding.

It would also grossly undermine ongoing efforts to rebuild the national herd numbers.

Government should once again put resources into fight stock theft.

More police, and more intelligence officers could help.

The trouble now is that6 cattle theft has become a nationwide problem.

No areas are untouched.

And while that highlights the scale of the problem, it is also an indication of just how much resources are needed.

Farmers too have a role to play. They should meet government halfway.

They should try to look after their cattle and ensure they do not live like stray animals.

But of course again it has not escaped our attention that some of these thieves steal animals from the kraals.

This has made farmers scares and helpless.

Scared because thieves often are armed and ready to kill when caught.

Helpless because these thieves now seem like they are ubiquitous.

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