PALAPYE: Farmers at Gobe cattlepost in the Bobirwa area last week took the law into their own hands and beat four Zimbabweans to a pulp resulting in one of them dying.
This follows the disappearance of 114 goats from their kraals.
The 10 farmers reportedly found the four Zimbabwean men in the bush around their farming area when they were tracking the missing goats.
An altercation ensued, and the farmers aged between 50 and 70 years allegedly beat up the quartet before calling the police.
Upon arrival at the scene, the police found the Zimbabwean men brutally assaulted and immediately ferried them to Bobonong Primary Hospital where they were admitted.
One of them, allegedly later succumbed to the assault wounds.
The other three are still recuperating in hospital. Following the passing of the Zimbabwean man, the 10 farmers were later arrested and now face assault and murder charges. They have already appeared before the Bobonong Magistrate’s Court.
Botswana Police Service’s deputy public relations officer, senior superintendent Near Bagali confirmed the incident.
He said the altercation happened after 114 goats vanished from two kraals belonging to some of the affected farmers.
A syndicate of farmers who assist one another against the cross-border theft in the area had tracked the goats that appeared to have been driven into neighbouring Zimbabwe, but returned home empty-handed.
Bagali said the police also followed the trail and confirmed the same. Since they share a bilateral relationship with the Zimbabwean police, he said they informed the latter, and the matter is under investigation on both side of the borderline.
Bagali advised citizens against taking the law into their own hands. “We understand the frustrations, but we continue to advise people not to take the law into their own hands,” he said.
The police spokesperson said they were compelled to arraign the farmers on murder and unlawful wounding charges. “Our farmers are now facing these serious charges when they could have been heroes of citizen arrest,” he said.
On May 10, another incident of small stock theft was reported in the region at a cattlepost near Mababe. A total of 15 goats were stolen and had crossed the border into Zimbabwe.
While the police were tracking the goats, they pounced on six Zimbabwean men in the area. They were arrested as illegal immigrants and were helping with investigations. It was yet to be established if the men could be involved in a spate of stocktheft incidents
Bobirwa legislator, Taolo Lucas said cross-border theft that had prevailed for the past 35 years has rendered Babirwa paupers.
He said late last year and beginning of the year, hundreds of cattle were stolen in the area, forcing some farmers to leave behind cattleposts and empty kraals, and retreat to the villages to rely on government handouts.
“The communities are angry and agitated. In some areas there are completely abandoned kraals by farmers who have lost everything they had to cross-border stocktheft,” Lucas said.
He added there was little recovery of the animals.
“This is a Foot and Mouth Disease zone. If they are recovered from across the border in Zimbabwe, they are destroyed. The compensation is also not commensurate with the value of the lost animals. Our government gives farmers P200 for a goat and P700 for a cow.”
He revealed the theft escalated during the coronavirus (COVID-19) period and suspected it was largely due to growing concerns of hunger. In the period, a number of cattle were stolen at five different cattleposts and were tracked across the border.
Besides the stocktheft and loss of livelihood, the legislator feared for the spread of COVID-19.
“We are worried about the virus. We are faced with stocktheft and the possibility of infections because those from the north enter the country through ungazetted points of entry,” he decried.
However, Lucas was happy with the intervention of the law enforcement arm that has since channelled more resources to try and bring a lasting solution to the problem.
He said from their engagement, the police have promised to bring a helicopter that would routinely patrol the area and deploy more men on the ground to guard against unlawful movement. He said they also introduced modern technology in the use of drones to assist with the patrols.
“The problem has persisted for far too long, but I am happy with the interventions after we had sat together with the leadership of the Botswana Police to put robust measures to fight this crime,” the legislator said.
He added that the communities of Babirwa in the vast area have also formed clusters that are working hard to seize the impoverishing and life-threatening situation at villages near the border.