Small farmers across the country find themselves once again fighting with bare hands against the more determined stock thieves who are now entering into the kraals and into farms with undisguised force.
These thieves are now working with the wealthy feedlots owners and the butcheries.
These provide the market for the loot.
They also provide sponsorships for the criminal operations.
The gangs are more organized. And they have resources.
They are for a greater part working with herd boys, which makes detection difficult because they have inside information especially on the movement of farm owners who in any case for the most part do not stay at their farms but at the city.
Initially the police working closely with the Intelligence services had made headway into reducing the crime.
But when covid started they suspended the operations.
The thieves for their part did not stop, but increased their intensity.
Now stock theft has reached alarming levels.
Farmers are growing increasingly uneasy.
And it is understandable.
Coming to think of it, given the importance of cattle to a majority of Batswana, there was absolutely no reason why the state had to suspend a section of policing duties just because of the pandemic.
It is like saying the borders will not be patrolled because there is a pandemic.
It simply does not make sense.
In fact the police and other security agencies should have known that the advent of the pandemic provided immense opportunities for people involved in crime.
In response they needed to intensify their operation rather than call it off.
As it is there is now a raging low intensity war between farmers and livestock thieves.
It is only a matter of time before these little wars between farmers and the thieves get out into the open.
In fact in some areas they have.
Thieves have been caught red-handed.
And brutally assaulted.
For now, and thanks to covid, Botswana is unique as a country that gives stock racketeers a pass because they can practice their illicit trade without fear of being arrested.
In other words since the state pulled out and suspended their operation that was dubbed “kgomo Khumo” the racketeers are having a field day.
People are being robbed of their hard earned assets.
For many Batswana, especially in the rural areas, cattle represent much more than wealth.
Attachment to cattle is fierce. And when a farmer loses one animal, not to mention many the loss is palpable and heartfelt.
It would seem like the state is ignoring all the red flags that if not attended to could degenerate into a security matter.
For farmers the situation is already untenable.
They simply do not understand what should happen for the state to come to their rescue.
In short, farmers needed relief. And that can only be provided by promptly starting the
Getting the situation back under control will take time. The state has to put more resources into it.
Even worse is the fact that after suspending the operation as a result of covid, the state will now be playing catch-up.
There have been concerns among the farming community that government officials like the veterinary official, the police and other security agencies colluded with criminal syndicates.
These loopholes must also be plucked.