By Sipho Shongwe
Last month, the National Commissioner of the Royal Swaziland Police (RSP), Isaac Magagula, revealed that cattle theft and cross-border cattle rustling has reached a crisis level in Swaziland.
He said the crisis needed urgent attention from all local law enforcement agencies and their counterparts in neighbouring states. The National Commissioner was addressing a joint meeting of the Swazi Police and the Republic of Mozambique Police held on March 31, 2014, at Siteki Hotel. Also present in that bilateral meeting was the Mozambique Police Commissioner, Doao Zeferine Zandamela, who was leading the Mozambique delegation. Magagula’s speech formed the headlines in the local electronic and print media.
During his speech, Magagula presented statistics which showed that cattle production and the Swazi economy were under threat due to this crossborder crime. Magagula said a total of 8 813 cattle were reported stolen in Swaziland during the last 36 months, with an estimated live value of E30 million. Magagula also revealed that the worst affected region in Swaziland was the Lubombo region where 3 335 cattle worth over E12 million were stolen during the same period. However, assuming that the stolen cattle were adult fat slaughter cattle, Your Friend estimates that the retail value of the stolen cattle meat is well over E105 million.
The National Commissioner also told the meeting that cattle thieves operating in the country have formed sophisticated syndicates who team up with other syndicates operating in neighbouring countries where cattle stolen in Swaziland are sold.
The National Commissioner lamented the lack of fear that cattle rustlers were operating under and the great financial losses and misery caused to both large and small-scale farmers, adding that this has also become a serious threat to the economic stability in Swaziland.
However, the National Commissioner revealed that the objective of the bilateral meeting between Mozambique Police, RSP and Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) was to formulate strategies on how the security forces can cooperate to effectively combat this crime.
It was unfortunate, however, that Magagula did not tell the meeting how many people have been arrested and convicted of cattle rustling in Swaziland. It is amazing!
Five weeks after the Commissioner of RSP made the statement about the seriousness of cattle rustling in Swaziland, nothing visible is being done about this problem by relevant parties and stakeholders here. Farmers are losing their cattle in large numbers without a trace and there is very little they can do to protect their investment. Your Friend is appealing to the relevant parties to team up and do the following:
Ministry of Agriculture
One would like to appeal to the Ministry of Agriculture to be a leading advocate against cattle theft in Swaziland.
The ministry has got the tools to monitor cattle numbers and generate accurate reports of missing cattle in the kingdom. Your Friend would like to lobby the Ministry of Agriculture to team up with the RSP and sensitise the general public about livestock theft and what farmers can do to help eradicate this problem.
Your Friend would like to appeal to the Farmers Union in Swaziland to do its work and be the voice of farmers in the country. Pastures in Swaziland are invaded by invasive plant species and farmers cattle are stolen every day but we do not hear the union complaining. The Farmers Union is the one that should have raised the alarm about cattle rustling in Swaziland, not the police. The reason being it is their members who have lost E105 million during the last three years.
Furthermore, Your Friend would like to appeal to the Farmers Union to lobby Members of Parliament to force government to declare cattle rustling in Swaziland a disaster if security forces are failing to control it.
Members of Parliament
Your Friend had hoped that soon after Magagula’s statement, politicians would bang tables in both houses of Parliament demanding to know why they were not told that cattle theft in the country has reached a crisis level when they were debating the budget.
One assumes they would have allocated more money to the RSP to help them fight this undeclared war.
Furthermore, one would have expected members of Parliament from the Lubombo region and the Ministry of Agriculture portfolio committee to demand a special sitting of the House of Assembly to discuss and address this serious matter and find practical solutions.