In what could be the greatest stock theft case in the country’s history, 95 cattle worth US$60 000 were stolen last year from the Cold Storage Company (CSC)’s Dubani Ranch in Colleen Bawn.
The theft is a major blow to CSC, which slid into insolvency due to mounting debts, poor management and alleged corruption.
At its peak, CSC handled up to 150 000 tonnes of beef and associated by-products annually, earning the country US$45 million per year in exports to the European Union and regional countries such as Zambia, South Africa and the Congo.
Government is in the process of reviving CSC to its past glory and has tasked Boustead Beef with the revival of the giant company.
Police in Matabeleland South Province have since launched a manhunt for a suspect, Brighton Siziba, from Tibeli area in Guyu.
Siziba was allegedly involved in the theft of the cattle between April 28 and November 21 last year.
Police recovered seven branded cattle valued at US$4 200 from the suspect’s kraal on Friday last week.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commission Paul Nyathi confirmed the incident, saying police were appealing for information which may lead to the arrest of Siziba.
“The cattle were positively identified by the complainant and the suspect fled from the scene. Anyone with information should contact any nearest police station,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Increased stock theft is threatening the source of livelihood for many farmers in Matabeleland South, which is a livestock farming area.
Boustead Beef consultant Mr Reginald Shoko said stock theft was a national problem which police have to tame as it affects livestock value chain industries and economic revival.
“At the moment cattle rustling is a threat to livestock developers across the country and we need cops to be on top of the situation.
As it stands, we have stock theft incidents almost every two days in our various farms across all the regions.
Also, you have to remember that we are not just keeping ordinary cattle, but high breed with good quality beef, which in itself is an investment,” said Mr Shoko.
“With us there are a lot of things that would be lost when these cattle are stolen. It also affects raw materials of other industries.
After stealing these cattle, there is no value addition on the animal yet with us, we don’t discard anything.
The skin of the animal is processed by the leather sector and other downstream industries.
So, people have to understand that they are not just stealing cattle, but are affecting the country’s economic performance.”
CSC has ranches in Maphaneni in Khezi District, Dubane in Gwanda District, Nyamandlovu in Umguza District, Chivumbuni in Mwenezi District, Mushandike in Masvingo, Darwendale in Harare and Willsgrove in Bulawayo.
The nine-year mandatory sentence for stock theft does not seem to be deterrent enough, as daring culprits keep breaking the law.
In September last year, police launched an operation targeting stock thieves in Gwanda district resulting in 98 cattle and 12 donkeys being recovered under the first phase of the operation dubbed “Let’s fight stock thieves/asilwiseni amasela ezifuyo/ ngatirwisei mbavha dzezvipfuyo,” which ended on October 2.
In the second phase of the operation from November 13-20, police recovered 51 cattle and two donkeys.
Police in Gwanda recently arrested a businessman and butchery operator from the Konongwe farming area for alleged stock theft after the recovery of live and slaughtered cattle.
The cattle were recovered at Irimai Muringa’s farm on Christmas Eve.
Villagers pounced on Muringa and his employees following a tip-off from neighbours and recovered meat from five of their eight stolen beasts.
Chief Mathe from Gwanda said the problem of stock theft cuts across the province and there was a need for stepped up police operations.
“Stock theft is rampant, although there are places which have been identified as hotspots.
There is a need for police to work with communities to rid the area of stock thieves,” he said. – Chronicle