SELEBI-PHIKWE: Councillors here have rejected calls from President Ian Khama to have the matimela programme abolished.
Khama had recommended the abolition of the programme, saying it was a financial burden on local authorities.
But Selebi-Phikwe councillors, including those of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), rejected the proposal outright during a special full council session last Thursday.
According to correspondence from the Ministry of Agriculture, local authorities were required to debate the issue before making their submissions. Councillors said the issue of stray livestock would always be there and called on the government to amend the Matimela Act, which they consider outdated.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) councillor for Leseding, Gaone Chamme, said it would be an ill-advised decision to abandon the programme. "We cannot just abandon matimela," Chamme said. "Authorities are taking the issue lightly. We should have a look at the balance sheet and weigh losses against gains."
He argued that as long as there are stray animals, the matimela programme should not be abolished. "Even though there may be losses, we have an obligation to control livestock," he argued.
Under the matimela programme, stray livestock is gathered at kgotla corrals in various parts of the country. If the owners do not claim the animals within three months, the livestock is sold and the money goes into council coffers.
BDP Kopano ward councillor, Mogae Ketshogile, said while the President had suggested the abolition of the system, it did not mean that a final decision had been taken.
He said the correspondence from the Ministry of Agriculture was not clear regarding the abolition of the programme and the Matimela Act. In his view,
Ketshogile noted that the beef industry provided a source of income for most Batswana and that the abolition of the matimela programme might see an increase in stock theft.
Specially nominated councillor, Benjamin Bagayi, said there was no question of Botswana stopping the matimela programme. "You cannot abolish this system unless we redefine matimela," Bagayi said. "The government does not have matimela; it is farmers whose livestock goes astray. We have to look at the legislation with a view of amending the Matimela Act but not abolishing the programme.
"It is like saying we should close prisons because it is costly to maintain such facilities. What would we do with convicts? The solution is to have a look at the Act, which hasn't been reviewed for a long time."
Councillor for Botshabelo North (BDP), Michael Tidimane, echoed his colleagues' sentiments, saying Matimela should not be abolished, as did Councillor for Tlhakadiawa (BCP), Evelyn Kgodungwe, who said if the programme was abolished, stock theft and animal disease were likely to get worse.
Councillor for Botshabelo West, Kosi Mashaba, said the proposal to abolish matimela had exposed the government's poor planning.
Botshabelo South councillor, Alpheus Mashaba supported the abolition of the programme.
Councillor for Botshabelo East, Margaret Mmidi, said the bolus form of identification should be used in cases of stray livestock.
The only councillor to come out clearly in support of Khama's proposal was Alpheus Mashba (BCP) who said most stray animals were wrongly classified as matimela.