Cattle rustling remains one of the major criminal activities that continues to cause a lot of headaches for security forces in most parts of Zimbabwe. Of late, theft of other livestock such as goats, donkeys and sheep has also been on the increase with farmers living along the country’s border with Botswana bearing the most brunt.
The continued increase in cases of livestock theft particularly in the South-Western part of the country along the border with Botswana has forced local farmers in the area to approach authorities in search of a permanent solution to the menace.
Some of the affected areas which fall along the Zimbabwe-Botswana and Zimbabwe-South Africa borderlines include Mlambapele, Simolale, Mashambe, Mankonkoni, Rustlers’ Gorge, Guyu, Mabowle and Shalimpo. The thieves take advantage of the areas’ proximity to the border to illegally cross and sell the animals in any of the neighbouring countries other than where they could have been stolen from.
To improve on security along the border in fighting against cross-border livestock theft, Zimbabwe and Botswana recently formed a Bi-National Commission to coordinate efforts along the two countries’ border. At its infancy the initiative started with joint police operations between the two neighbouring countries.
However, with no sign of cases declining, the two governments resorted to reinforcing the operation through deploying their militaries to assist in curtailing the perennial problem. To this end, the Commander Zimbabwe National Army directed Commander 1 Infantry Brigade, Brigadier General Josphat Kudumba to deploy.
The Commander 1 Infantry Brigade responded by deploying elements from 13 Reserve Force Battalion along the border with Botswana on 01 May 2022 in a bid to assist the Zimbabwe Republic Police in thwarting livestock rustling in all the hotspots. The deployment came as relief to most farmers in the hotspots, as a marked decline in cases of livestock rustling began to be registered following the coming onboard of troops from the two countries.
Some of the successes registered by the Operation include recovery of five slaughtered cattle carcasses in bushes at Village 8 Irisvale and two slaughtered cattle carcasses in the Sun Yet Sen on 06 June 2022. Other notable successes were the interception by Botswana Defence Force (BDF) of 19 goats and a sheep stolen from Zimbabwe on 19 July 2022, the recovery of 21 stolen donkeys and the subsequent apprehension of six suspects by ZRP details on 21 August 2022, to mention just a few.
To follow up on the Bi-National Commission, Botswana Defence Force Commander 2 Brigade, Brigadier KM Kgaswanyane visited Zimbabwe on 07 July 2022. The visit was aimed at assessing the level of cooperation, especially on border patrols between members of the ZNA and their Botswana counterparts who are currently deployed on either side of the border in support of their respective police forces. Before the visit, Brigadier Kgaswanyane had hosted Brigadier General Kudumba for another consultative meeting in Botswana between 11 to 16 April 2022.
During his visit to Zimbabwe, Brigadier Kgaswanyane toured the operational bases on the Zimbabwean side where he commended the progress made following the stepping in of military forces in support of their police counterparts.
“l am humbled by the level of progress that this joint operation has made so far. I am also grateful on being given an opportunity to come over and appreciate your area of responsibility. This visit has afforded us an opportunity to cultivate fairly the operation that is pitched at Bi-National level. I believe our subordinates seeing us together like this, will actually enforce and nourish the relationship that they have on the ground. l believe we will continue to see this operation bearing fruits in future,” he said.