The Herald (Harare)

28 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Vet Department to Probe Chiadzwa Cattle Deaths

The Department of Veterinary Services is dispatching teams to investigate allegations that livestock in Chimanimani area are dying after drinking contaminated water.

This follows reports that some diamond mining companies were discharging pollutants into Save and Odzi rivers, the main sources of water for livestock in the area.

Veterinary Services Department field service deputy director (Epidemiology) Dr Chengerai Njagu, on Friday said his office would instruct officers in Mutare to investigate the matter.

"We are going to investigate and get to the bottom of the matter. The people should report any cases so that our officers will prioritise them," he said.

Dr Njagu warned the people against spreading wrong information.

There are reports that a local non-governmental organisation, the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association, is prevailing upon villagers to claim that their cattle were dying of poisoned water from Odzi and Save Rivers.

"We want to encourage the people to report to the department anything to do with animal disease or death. We are going to raise our officers in Mutare to go on the ground. Our postmortems are able to determine any causes of animal deaths," said Dr Njagu.

Investigations by The Herald showed that scores of cattle in some parts of Chimanimani were reportedly succumbing to hunger, tick-borne ailments and a suspected anthrax outbreak.

However, Zela claims the water flowing downstream of Chiadzwa diamond fields has high concentration of ferrosilicon as part of its efforts to discredit Marange diamonds ahead of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme intercessory meeting in the US next week.

The meeting is expected to discuss challenges facing the diamond mining industry the world over.

Some Vet officials in the area confirmed reports of cattle dying, but dismissed the allegation that water from Save and Odzi rivers was the cause.

Said an official who declined to be named for professional reasons; "The death of these animals is caused by a combination of factors. There is suspicion of anthrax outbreak in some parts of this area and it is still under investigation. The other issue is that cattle in most parts of Chimanimani have not been dipping for almost nine months due to shortage of water and the animals are dying of tick-borne diseases. There is no food here for these animals. The grass dried up a long time back."

However, headman Romabi Chibuwe of Chibuwe Village B in Chimanimani, insisted that its poisonous water from the diamond mining companies that was killing the livestock.

"Our cattle are dying and there are so many people who have lost their livestock in this area. I used to work at some of these companies and I know dirty water is being discharged into the rivers. I lost three cattle here and my neighbour Reuben Majeyi lost eight cattle," he said.

Headman Chibuwe admitted he did not have evidence to prove that the water was responsible for the death of the animals.

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