A close collaboration between the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Chikuku Development Initiative (CDI) in Bikita has led to the busting of one of the biggest cattle rustling syndicates in the country.
On the 1st of March 2021, Mr. Inklebert Mufunda, a CDI member woke up to the shock of his life when he realised that two heifers were missing in his cattle pen (kraal) and shared the information on the CDI WhatsApp group.
The information opened a floodgate of similar cases. Mr. Tapfuma Mamutse revealed that he lost two cattle to thieves in a similar fashion in August 2020 but efforts to recover them had been futile even though he had made a report and several follow-ups at the Chikuku local police base. The next day, a local man was intercepted when he had stolen cattle from the Chinogandura homestead in Mataga village. Several people had lost cattle in the whole of Bikita East in places like Mukore, Chirorwe, Manyuchi, Chikuku, Gedhe Maranganyika, Chibvumani, Chivaka, Mandadzaka, and Gangare, just to mention a few. The thieves used the same modus operandi of targeting heifers.
Police officers in the CDI group who can not be named for professional reasons advised members not to lose hope and urged the community to make use of suggestion boxes.
Another CDI member, Mr. Jefta Zvidzai advised community members to closely monitor businessmen in the area, especially butchery owners who in most cases are the first suspects in cattle rustling syndicates.
“A close look is needed on our local business people, especially butchery owners. Everyone is a suspect in such circumstances. Investigate whether or not there is a barter trade of heifers and oxen,” Mr. Zvidzai advised.
A collaboration between the CDI and the ZRP came up with the following suggestions for improved cattle rustling prevention and mitigation of impacts:
– Keep a stock register/card – one can be obtained from the veterinary department or cattle dip minders
– Stock branding: This can be done through brand marks, ear tags, or chip insertion for traceability.
– Daily counting: This is easy for those with small herds. Count first thing in the morning and before penning in the evening. For those with large herds once daily or thrice per week and when dipping.
– Perimeter security: four-strand barbed wire is standard but not secure. Using veld snare 1,8m is better to reinforce the perimeters. Cattle pens are also ideal or for large herds. Round them up to a secure place and put night watch.
– Use of technology: GPS navigation of your farm is also the thing these days. You can see what’s going on at the farm from your phone. Coupled with the GPS is the use of drones. It’s expensive at first but useful to track down thieves as they steal with follow-up teams getting directions from the office.
– Neighbourhood watch scheme. It can be quite useful to work with the ZRP home officer scheme to coordinate patrols in the area. Unfamiliar faces wandering in the area should be monitored especially groups that spend aimless time at shops until dusk with no known relations in the neighborhood.
– WhatsApp groups enable sharing of information and even coding each other to raise an alarm. These days the rustlers slaughter and debone, so vehicles unfamiliar in the area need to be monitored as they may be used as transport.
– Collective cattle penning by villagers and guarding at night.
– Identifying the market and destroying it.
– Identify escape routes and waylay the rustlers.
– Identify high points and check for suspicious torch lighting.
– Use of binoculars from high point surveillance from afar.
On Wednesday 21 April 2021, the people in Bikita East woke up to the sweet news that the cattle rustling syndicate suspects had been arrested. About 30 cattle had been recovered by Thursday. ZRP Police Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the developments but said investigations were still underway and were yet to provide finer details.
A number of complainants positively identified their cattle. These are Tackler Kufa (29) of Village Fambira under Chief Mazungunye; Sandra Rwatirera (80) of Village Munovapei under Chief Budzi; Edson Pachavo (53) of Zikani Village under Chief Budzi; Estina Magwegwe of Village Mugeji under Chief Mazungunye; Alphonce Jiri (65) of Mazano Village under Chief Mukanganwi; Peresu Chikono (72) of Mataga Village under Chief Budzi; Princilla Munapo (30) of Muchakazikwa Village under Chief Budzi; Ugenie Chikomana (60) of Murefu Village under Chief Mazungunye; Jenita Makura (66) of Dziro Village under Chief Budzi; Nyasha Taonameso (51) of Tochiona Village under Chief Mazungunye; Inklebert Mufunda and Charles Masuka (67) of Rukweza Village under Chief Mazungunye.
The accused persons are local businessmen working in cahoots with the villagers. They are assisting the police with investigations.