Cattle deaths: MPs fume

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By Anna Chibamu

ANGRY MPs last week demanded answers from Deputy Agriculture Minister Peter Haritatos on mitigatory measures government is taking as the current drought spell takes its toll on the country’s national herd.

Lawmakers across the political divide cornered Haritatos and told harrowing stories of cattle deaths in their constituencies while government “fiddles”.

Zanu PF Nkayi South MP, Stars Mathe started the ball rolling asking Haritatos to provide an update on government plans to resolve the crisis.

Haritatos attributed the deaths to drought but drew the ire of legislators over reports of delays in distribution of feed-stock.

“Mr Speaker Sir, the drought has affected much of the country which has certainly affected the amount of livestock as well as human beings. What we are doing is drilling boreholes in areas that do not have water.

“In addition to that, we have been having regular meetings with the livestock industry in order to develop 200 000 metric tonnes of survivor feed which will be sold to communities affected at a reduced price,” said Haritatos.

He however quickly pushed the baton to the Ministry of Local Government that he said had the mandate to declare national disasters.

“Unfortunately, I do not believe our ministry is the ministry that does declare national disasters. I believe that falls within the mandate of Local Government,” he added.

MDC Chief Whip Prosper Mutseyami chipped in, arguing the crisis has been on for two seasons with no solution in sight.

“We have lost thousands of cattle. Now, two years down the line, we have the same problem. What is the policy that we have as a government so that we do not have this problem year in, year out without any solution?

“As we speak today Mr. Speaker Sir, we have already lost thousands of beasts but now the government is still planning to provide fodder. It is a process that is happening but as we speak today, animals are dying. What is the solution? What do you have in mind as a Government so that we do not have this problem coming in?” Mutseyami said.

To this, Haritatos said his department was urging rural farmers to reduce their herds.

“We have encouraged our farmers to destock slightly. It is better to have nine healthy mombes (cattle) out of 10 than have 10 dead mombes.

“What is not in our hands is given by God. The fact that we have climatic changes is not a cause of this government. They are caused by climatic changes that were caused by the first world. We have to mitigate against these climatic changes,” he said.

Said Harare North MP Rusty Markham: “I understand the climate change and the reduction of stock but the point is government has failed to plan and only bringing in fodder days before the rains when farmers have already lost.

“The Minister has failed to tell us that we do not have a dipping policy. My question is, when are we going to reinstate the dipping policy so that the cattle that are dying from diseases like theileriosis can be treated.”

Zanu PF Umzingwane MP L. Mayihlome fumed:  “Mr Speaker Sir, the same question was asked about six months ago and the same Ministry gave an assurance to this House that fodder was going to come from Mashonaland provinces to cover shortfalls in the southern regions of the country but nothing happened, not even a visit from this Ministry to check on what is happening on the ground.”