Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

Stock theft dogs Mokhotlong

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — Cattle continue to be the backbone of the rural economy.

The entire national herd represents about M5 billion of the country’s total wealth.

But for some reason there continues to be a lackluster attitude towards the protection of livestock.

In Mokhotlong, an impoverished district about 300km north of Maseru, the villagers say they are fed up with cattle rustlers.

They have formed vigilante groups to protect their livestock and clamp down on cattle-rustling.

The police and army have not been helpful in stopping the crime, the villagers say.

But researchers say forming vigilante groups to stop cattle rustling is not the solution.

Such a scenario would set off “civil wars” between villagers who would fight each other to no end, says Yehuda Danziger, an agricultural researcher based in Lesotho.

Danziger is also the managing director of Camelot (Pty) Ltd, a research company.

He says the key to combating cattle-rustling lies in the microchip — a tiny electronic device that bears a unique identification serial number.

The chip will allow farmers to identify and monitor the movement of their livestock effectively putting a stop to cattle-rustling.

“Stock theft is a serious problem in Lesotho. Unfortunately authorities seem not to be doing much about it. But the microchip is the solution to the whole problem,” Danziger says.

“There are about 4 million livestock in Lesotho whose value is about M5 billion. But the national stock is treated like it does not exist so much that it does not appear in the country’s GDP,” he says.

He said that 80 percent of Basotho who live in rural districts and depend on farming easily lose their livestock because there is no efficient identification system for their animals.

“The current way of identifying livestock is not efficient. It is just a small ear notch that can be easily destroyed.

“This means that without proper identification, farmers cannot claim ownership of their animals.

“This is why most farmers, who lose their stock do not recover their stolen animals because they cannot give evidence that the animals belong to them,” Danziger says.

A recent report on the Microchip Identification System — Pilot Project said stock-theft has had a negative impact on people.

“Clearly, the stock-theft experienced in Lesotho has affected negatively many features of rural life. 

“The magnitude of stock-theft has caused the depletion of limited resources for the already impoverished individuals and communities. Lawlessness and murders had further perpetuated poverty in the highlands.

“Many of these horrific and often violent characteristics are in direct monetary terms non-quantifiable, yet they contribute immeasurably to the strain on the national resources and spirit,” the report said.

During the study farmers said they were not getting much help from the police to prevent stock-theft.

They said the army was not involved in any of the efforts fight stock-theft.

The report said about 69 percent of farmers in Mokhotlong “thought the police were not doing enough to fight stock-theft, while a significant minority, 30 percent thought the police were doing enough.”

Farmers also said that stock thieves were getting lenient fines from the courts, the study said.

A Mokhotlong farmer who spoke to the Sunday Express said they needed the army and police to fight help cross-border stock-theft.

Tefo Mapesela said there is bad blood between Mokhotlong villagers and those in Kwa-Zulu-Natal across the border in South Africa.

Mapesela said thousands of cattle have been stolen on both sides of the border resulting in violent fights.

He said the fight started when Basotho accepted stolen cattle in exchange for dagga which is grown illegally in the district.

He said Basotho farmers were at first reluctant to address the problem thinking then that it was not their cattle which were being stolen.

The practice went on for a long time until the Zulu farmers in South Africa could not take it anymore.

They retaliated.

They captured every livestock they could lay their hands on.

People were killed and thousands of cattle were stolen and driven across into South Africa.

“The fight between Basotho and the Zulus is getting out of hand. We need soldiers and the police to help us.

“There is too much free movement across the borders. Livestock is being stolen during daylight. The Zulus carry guns with them when they come to raid our livestock. It is bad,” he says.

He said the most recent incident happened in November when a group of Zulu farmers seized five cows.

The cattle were grazing in a pasture near the borders. They scared the herd boys with guns.

Luckily no one was shot during the raid, he said.

Mapesela said although the microchip would help to combat stock-theft, there is little hope that the fight between Kwa-Zulu-Natal villagers and Lesotho farmers will stop.

Comments are closed.