By Moses Chuma
DESPITE repeated threats by Plumtree Town Council officials to impound all livestock seen roaming in the border town, the menace of stray cattle continues unabated, a situation which causes road accidents in worst circumstances.
The problem is not new and all efforts to handle it – at least for now, have not yielded any positive results. One would be forgiven to think that the animals do not have owners since the penalty imposed by the local authority would have been enough to force owners to stop their livestock from straying into restricted areas.
As we write this article, we can authoritatively reveal that herds of livestock are lying within the railway line – a danger to oncoming trains. Yet local authority officials seem to have given up if it is not that they no longer care anymore about the situation.
“One evening when I was driving home from town at a speed of about 40 km per hour, I bumped into a herd of cattle lying on the road,” a seemingly troubled motorist who identified himself as Njabulo Ndlovu narrated his ordeal.
“I tried to dodge the car to either side of the road to avoid hitting them but unfortunately, I failed to avoid the entire herd which saw my car hit one of them resulting in a breakdown.”
Ndlovu is not the only victim of stray livestock. Titus Ncube, a local taxi driver said that he was once forced to resort to emergency braking when he suddenly realised that there were cattle two meters ahead of him.
“I immediately applied emergency brakes and luckily the driver behind me was alert. I could have caused an accident,” he said.
We thought that these livestock are a menace only to motorists before a woman, who survives from vending veggies told us that her garden was once ravished by the unrelenting animals.
“This a now a farm,” Patricia Donga, a resident fumed, adding that she was forced to fence her garden using cheap material after her crops were destroyed by stray livestock whose owners she does not know.
“Yesterday I saw a cow grazing in my neighbour’s vegetable garden,” Donga said. “When I rushed to alert her it was too late because it had eaten all the vegetable crops.”
After all this suffering, our question is: What should be done?
“To avoid accidents and other problems associated with cattle, the (town) Council should at least impound all stray livestock and release them to their owners for a hefty fine,” a resident who spoke off the record said.
“There should also be restoration of livestock grids on the roads to avoid the movement of cattle from the countryside into the town.”
Livestock grids are types of obstacles used to prevent animals from passing along a road which penetrates the fencing surrounding an enclosed piece of land or border.
Ncube – a motorist who is a victim of the menace said putting a fence to demarcate areas in which cattle are free to move around and those in which they are prohibited would help curb the problem of stray cattle in town.
“It would be wise if the Council and other responsible authorities convened meetings to discuss the issue with owners of the stray livestock in order to come up with long term solutions to the matter,” he said.
“We are sick and tired of cleaning cow dung caused by these cattle in our yards every day since some of our homes are not fenced.”
In March 2014, 56 people were reportedly arrested countrywide by the Police National Anti-Stock Theft Unit for leaving their cattle to graze along highways. Our efforts to engage the local authority had not yet materialised at the time of publication. – Editing by Divine Dube