- Why did the government of Botswana recently have to slaughter 13,000 head of cattle? What steps were taken to keep this from happening again?
- Is protecting the cattle industry and the livelihood of people like Japie Strauss sufficient reason for erecting a fence along Botswana's border with Zimbabwe?
Foot and Mouth disease is a much-feared affliction in cattle. The discovery of an outbreak of the disease can lead to mass slaughter of cattle, as one of the only known ways to stem the disease's spread. Botswanan farmers dread this possibility, and fear that border crossings from Zimbabwe might spread Foot and Mouth disease to their livestock.
Africa has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership. Some of the worst examples come from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe -- countries that have been run into the ground despite their abundant natural resources. But these cases are by no means unrepresentative: by some measures, 90 percent of sub-Saharan African nations have experienced despotic rule in the last three decades. Such leaders - whether military autocrats, corrupt embezzlers, or puffed-up posturers - use power as an end in itself, rather than for the public good. These regimes have contributed greatly to the instability of the African subcontinent in recent history.
Under the stewardship of these leaders, infrastructure in many African countries has fallen into disrepair, currencies have fallen in value, and real prices have inflated dramatically, while job availability, health care, education standards, and life expectancy have declined. Ordinary life has become increasingly difficult: general security has deteriorated, crime and corruption have increased, much-needed public funds have flowed into hidden bank accounts, and officially sanctioned ethnic discrimination — sometimes resulting in civil war — has become prevalent. This has lead to many nationals fleeing to other countries, prosperous countries with good leadership and economic possibilities.
One of the best examples of good leadership in Africa is Botswana, which neighbors despotic Zimbabwe. Long before diamonds were discovered there, this former desert protectorate demonstrated a knack for participatory democracy, integrity, tolerance, entrepreneurship, and the rule of law. The country has remained democratic in spirit as well as form continuously since its independence from Britain in 1966 — an unmatched record in Africa. It has also defended human rights, encouraged civil liberties, and actively promoted its citizens' social and economic development.
The sharp contrast between the political and economic situations in Botswana and Zimbabwe has led many Zimbabweans to migrate to Botswana for work or political asylum. The Wide Angle film BORDER JUMPERS illustrates the conflicts that have arisen as a result of this immigration. An influx of migrant workers into any economy leads to uncertainty for domestic workers. These situations are seen throughout the world, and cause great strain on the economy of the thriving nations. BORDER JUMPERS exemplifies the threat and the security efforts taken by Botswana, and many countries throughout the world, to control such immigration.
Officially the impetus for building the fence came after devastating outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in Botswanan cattle in 2002 and 2003 -- caused by infected animals drifting in from Zimbabwe.
The outbreaks threatened to destroy Botswana's profitable cattle industry.
LT. GEN. MOMPATI MERAFHE, BOTSWANA FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER:
About two years ago, we have had to slaughter 13,000 head of cattle -- destroy 13,000 head of cattle because of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease between us and Zimbabwe. We don't want to repeat that process.
You know, beef is the third biggest industry in this country.
We produce to countries like members of the EU, France and Germany,
the U.K. are some of our biggest consumers of our beef. And they've got very stringent, you know, stock disease control restrictions that they impose upon us.
The cattle industry is very fundamental to our lives as Batswana, because it is the only economy that takes the money into the pocket of even the rural dweller in the most remotest part of the country.
So that's why we are so passionate about the cattle industry.
Japie Strauss, a farmer in northern Botswana, had spent decades establishing his farm and building up his herd.
We're about thirty years on the farm now. This is our life. That's what I want to do all my life. I want to be a farmer; I want to farm. I didn't have the opportunity. I had to work and buy out of a salary a farm and build up a cattle herd and we did it eventually.
And when we thought, 'now we've got enough, now we can go and retire and we come to the farm' and we wasn't -- There was about six, seven years we were here and then foot and mouth come. And then it breaked us completely.
It took just a matter of hours to slaughter and bury the 305 Brahma cattle.
Strass-Mokateng Farm. Cattle buried -- 305.
Here lies my fortune. Underground after they killed the cattle.
This is where they dug a big hole here, a furrow actually like that, quite deep. They built a corridor from there up to here and they chase the cattle come in here, they shoot them here and bring the next lot in and kill them and after it was full they close it down. I wasn't here.
I couldn't stand and see that all your work of a lifetime is killed like that and buried underground.
I just couldn't stand it.