Some farmers whose cattle were slaughtered during the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Zone 6 have decided to drag government before the High Court due to unsatisfactory compensation.
The farmers’ bone of contention is that government decided to kill their uninfected beasts. Most of the applicants are commercial farmers who spent thousands of Pula in improving their breeds and regard the P1700 per beast compensation offered by government as peanuts. The disgruntled farmers who lost a herd of 1800 cattle are now demanding P9, 242 million for their cattle. Some farmers claim that they reared beasts which valued at P80 000 each.
The government had intended to give farmers around P3.6 million as opposed to P14 million being the market prize of the slaughtered cattle. Arguing the concerned farmers’ case in court, attorneys Duma Boko and Miriro Furusa said P1700 is inadequate to compensate the farmers. In his heads of arguments, Boko said that farmers have invested a lot but the government offers to give them peanuts in return. He argued that by killing farmers’ cattle government has affected many people’s source of living as they depended on their livestock for their livelihood.
He told the court that Presidential directive is not the law and that the government has to respect the constitution. “There is no provision in the Animal Diseases Control Act that directs the President and the Minister of Agriculture to direct the slaughter of the infected cattle,” Boko said. He said that those powers are only reserved for the Director of Veterinary Services according to the Constitution.
Furusa concurred with Boko’s sentiments saying that the cattle were not infected but they were in an infected area. “The Director is within his rights to declare an area infected. However his powers do not end there, he must go further and scientifically prove that animals are infected,” he said. In addition he said that just because an area is declared FMD does not mean all cattle in that particular area are infected. In response, Ndiye Balule of the Attorney General argued that Section 5 of Animal Disease Control Act states that any animal within an infected area should be isolated, slaughtered for purposes of disease control. He said that if the animal is in that locality it will be exposed to the virus. Balule opposed Boko’s insinuation that President Ian Khama is the one who ordered the slaughter of the cattle.
He also said that government has never refused to compensate, however government cannot meet the farmers’ demands as they are requesting the market price for the slaughtered beasts. According to Balule, a market price depreciates on account of numerous factors. He dismissed the fact that cattle should have been tested before being slaughtered. He said such an exercise of testing all animals was going to be extremely expensive for government.Justice Barnabas Nyamadzabo will deliver his ruling on the 3rd of March next year.