Wedza — Cattle owners in the tiny farming town of Mashonaland East are being forced to sell their livestock to unsuspecting buyers and unscrupulous abattoirs operators after a mysterious disease outbreak has claimed dozens of the domestic animals with authorities reportedly not keen to assist.
A recent visit to the area by NewZimbabwe.com discovered that some abattoir owners from Harare and the nearby Marondera town have descended on the area to purchase cattle which would be showing signs of distress and closer to their death.
Villagers in the area say the mysterious disease has been a menace for almost four months while attempts to seek assistance from the veterinary services department have been unsuccessful.
According to one cattle owner, the livestock affected just become weak-kneed and collapse to their death.
"They simply stop walking and die," he tried to explain the catastrophe.
Some villagers facing the grim reality of losing their livestock to the disease say they were now disposing of some of the animals as soon as they begin showing signs of illness in attempts to salvage something from their main sources of wealth.
During the visit, truckloads of cattle were observed along the Harare-Wedza road which also passes through Chitungwiza, another market for the beef.
NewZimbabwe.com could however not verify if these were normal cattle purchases by animal meat dealers or they were part of the bumper harvests from a dying lot.
"Some villagers are selling their cattle for as little as $50 depending on their state of health at that particular time," said one Ralph Chigwedere, a villager in the area.
"Villagers here no longer eat beef because of the mysterious disease. They say they will start eating when government and the veterinary services department bring a solution."
A Harare couple also said, out of fear of eating beef from the area, it took some goat meat to be consumed during a recent family ceremony attended by dozens of relatives in Wedza.
Francis Payarira, another villager who lives near Garaba Shopping Centre, some 15 kilometres from Wedza Centre was open enough to admit he was now in the business of auctioning some cattle that would be showing signs of distress.
"Villagers bring their cattle here and I sell them to abattoir owners and I get my commission," he said.
"I have made connections with butchery owners from as far as Harare, Chitungwiza and Marondera.
"I get 10% for every beast sold."
While business is made brisk by customers from outside the Mashonaland East town, the attitude is different from among local butchery owners who have since closed shop.
"I have not sold any meat stocks for the last three months because villagers here are aware of that the beef sold may be contaminated," said Clemence Mukumba.
"As a business community here and villagers, we have tried to get help from government and the veterinary services but it seems they are too busy to come down here.
"Now that the elections are over, they may remember our plea to come down here and save our businesses and livestock."
There have not been any reported deaths among villagers that have been directly linked to the consumption of the meat.
This publication could not readily seek comment from government authorities.