Farmers, butchers bad-mouth government over outbreak

2011-03-05 16:27

Small-scale farmers in northern ­KwaZulu-Natal are blaming government for the outbreak of foot-and-mouth ­disease in the area.

They say the broken fence between Mozambique and South Africa as well as poor controls over the movement of livestock and game have caused it.

The economic impact of foot-and-mouth disease hits these farmers hard, with many saying they ­cannot sell their meat because people in the area fear the disease.

Almost half of the more than 600 ­animals tested for the disease by the ­agriculture department tested ­positive last month.

Jozini Farmers’ Association chairperson Joseph Khanyile blames the ­department for the rapid spread of the disease in the area.

“We are moving our cattle to a safer place if they don’t treat this quickly. They should’ve done their research when this happened in Mozambique,” Khanyile said.

According to reports, Mozambique’s veterinary department had notified the World Organisation for Animal Health of the outbreak affecting 179 cattle in December last year.

While Agriculture Minister Tina ­Joemat-Pettersson disputed claims that the outbreak originated in Mozambique, she said the South African government would work with both the Swaziland and Mozambique governments and would send technical teams to monitor the disease there.

Government has also started ­to repair the broken fence, she said.

Suspicions that the virus comes from buffalo which are found mostly in ­Ndumo Game Reserve (Jozini) have not been confirmed.“It is possible that buffalo are the carriers of the disease. We will remove all ­buffalo around the affected areas until we contain the virus,” the minister said.

KwaHlabisa Farmers’ Association spokesperson Alfred Buthelezi is very upset with government.“This virus is going to destroy us ­because we sell animals and no one will buy a virus,” said Buthelezi.

Local butchery owner Gaster Tembe says the virus has already threatened her business.

Although the agriculture ­department has assured consumers that the disease holds no threat for humans, Tembe said her customers would not eat diseased meat.“They should treat this disease or else we will starve.

After these findings ­people in the area told me that they will not buy the meat because it has ‘amatele’ (foot and mouth),” she said.

The Red Meat Industry Forum has also ­assured consumers that foot-and-mouth disease holds no threat for humans.

State veterinarian ­Dumisani Mtshali said the virus was not only transmitted by other animals but that vehicles and humans passing through contaminated areas could also transfer it to ­animals.“We will disinfect dung because it can also carry the virus.

We will contain the disease from spreading,” he said.Areas most affected by the virus are those close to the Mozambique border and surrounding areas in northern KZN.

Government has asked police and the Road Traffic Inspectorate to be on “standby” to control the movement of cloven-hoofed animals.

Joemat-Pettersson said roadblocks would be set up by the weekend and ­veterinarians would be on hand to stop the virus from spreading.

She said barriers would be located in the Umkhanyakude district, the ­Umfolozi River, the Big Five False Bay, and the Jozini and Umhlabuyalingana municipalities.

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