VILLAGERS from Mapayi and Dumba areas on the outskirts of Beitbridge have this year lost 39 cattle and 150 goats to cross-border livestock rustlers who are believed to be slaughtering and selling carcasses in Musina on the South African side of Beitbridge Border Post.
Of the 39 beasts, 16 were slaughtered a fortnight ago just a few kilometres inside South Africa where villagers claimed to have recovered carcasses of their missing animals.
The villagers said the cattle were driven across the Limpopo River through a police and army post near the disused Panda Mine in Beitbridge East.
Officer commanding Beitbridge Police District Chief Superintendent Francis Phiri said he did not have the number of the stolen cattle.
“I can’t give you figures the villagers reported off hand, but our province should assist you,” he said.
Matabeleland South police spokesman Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele also said he was not sure of the figures.
“I might have to check again with Beitbridge and come back to you. I do not have correct figures now,” he said.
The villagers who spoke on condition of anonymity said they held a meeting with police on the matter last Tuesday immediately after the theft of 16 head of cattle.
“We have no pastures, so our cattle go to the (Limpopo) River to feed and that is where they are rustled into South Africa with ready markets in Musina,” said one of the villagers.
“Just this other week we lost 16 cattle in a single incident and we need help. Police seem to be looking the other way.Another villager said at the meeting with police they openly told them that their colleagues were “dining with thieves”.
“We asked the police who came here for a meeting how many arrests officers that are deployed here have made, but they don’t even have one. So what are they here for?”
Police have up to eight bases along the border with South Africa and these are located along high-smuggling zones.
Villagers accused security agents of receiving bribes from smugglers.
“What will stop them from facilitating the smuggling of our cattle if they facilitate the smuggling of cars? We will take the law into our hands along and deal with these rustlers,” another villager said.
The Southern Eye has it on good authority that villagers reported their cattle thefts under case numbers RRB 20/05/18, RRB 20/06/18 and RRB 52/08/18 where 16 beasts were reported stolen.
At a recent meeting to resume joint co-operation between the Zimbabwe Republic Police and South African Police Service (Saps) held last week, Saps confirmed intercepting a number of carcasses suspected to be of stolen cattle.
Sources who attended the meeting said a Musina policeman identified only as Warrant Officer Maboyi who is in the livestock unit confirmed that Saps had recovered the meat in Musina.
Numerous sprouting food outlets in Nancefield and industrial areas of Musina had increased the demand for cheap meat, encouraging the new wave of livestock thefts.
Last year Saps cracked a cross-border livestock rustling syndicate during an operation launched against violation of Animals Protection and Meat Safety Act of South Africa.
In that raid the police recovered three refrigerator loads of beef and goat meat believed to be from animals stolen from Zimbabwe.