By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
17 June 2014
Botswana president Ian Khama has blamed the spread of foot and mouth in his country on Zimbabwe, which he said is failing to meet its bargain in a joint deal in which the neighboring countries agreed to curb the spread of the disease.
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding three years ago under which 30,000 cattle from Botswana’s foot and mouth-infested areas were to be imported to Bulawayo’s Cold Storage Commission (CSC) abattoirs for direct slaughter. Under the deal some of the infected cattle were slaughtered for the domestic beef market as a number of the cattle were suitable for consumption. But Gaborone pulled out of the deal after the CSC failed to honour its agreement to remit 60% of the income gained from meat sales, which was supposed to be used to compensate the owners of the destroyed beasts.
Press reports said the ailing parastatal owes Botswana over $100,000 under the collapsed deal.
According to the Southern Eye newspaper, Khama told a meeting in Robelela last week that while his government was spending a lot of money on controlling the spread of the disease and on compensating the affected farmers, Zimbabwe was letting its neighbour down.
Khama said: ‘Although most of the viruses came from Zimbabwe, the two countries had agreed to share the costs but at the moment Zimbabwe is broke, something which has become a problem for Botswana.’
Former CSC director Eddie Cross said since Botswana and Zimbabwe share a common border through which cattle move freely, and since foot and mouth is ‘endemic’ to both countries, Khama’s comments were understandable.
Cross, who is also an economist, added: ‘Botswana earns a large proportion of its foreign exchange from exports to Europe and when they have foot and mouth spreading into their country they are bound to be affected drastically.’
Cross said one of the primary requirements for international meat traders is that there should be very stringent measures to control the disease, but of late Zimbabwe has been failing to play its role due to the collapse of commercial agriculture and the veterinary services.
He said: ‘In the early 1980s we were able to play our part because CSC was a well run and powerful outfit and there was discipline amongst all players, including the veterinary services, but all that is gone and the cattle move freely spreading the disease throughout the country.’
Last month the Zimbabwean veterinary authorities reported an outbreak of foot and mouth in the Masvingo farmlands affecting beef cattle of all ages. A report to the World Organisation for Animal Health said three outbreaks occurred in adjoining farms close to a wildlife conservancy and there was evidence of breakages on the perimeter fences, suggesting that the cattle may have mixed with the infected buffaloes.