Shoring up its defences

Wednesday 15 October 2003

Dividing line A 500-kilometre electric fence, feels Botswana, will keep most of its problems out. It is erecting the fence along its border with Zimbabwe to purportedly prevent cattle infected with foot-and-mouth disease from crossing the border. The most recent outbreak was traced to Zimbabwe, with officials from the department of animal health first detecting it in the Matopi area along the border with Zimbabwe in January 2003. Veterinary experts had blamed it on the unrestricted movement of cattle from Zimbabwe to Botswana. The epidemic cost Botswana dear. Not only did the country have to slaughter about 3,000 cattle to contain the spread of the disease, it also lost out on over us $40 million worth of beef exports to the eu. Beef is Botswana's main agricultural export product, and is the second biggest earner of valuable foreign exchange after diamonds.

"The fence would be cutting across the livestock areas.... The intention of the fence is to control animal health diseases," stressed Musa Fanakiso, acting director of veterinary services. Zimbabwe, however, alleges that the fence is being put up to keep out thousands of its citizens who cross the border to escape economic hardship and political instability. Likening the fence to the Israeli security wall, Phelekeza Mphoko, Zimbabwean high commissioner to Gaborone, observed: "Botswana is trying to create a Gaza Strip."

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