Rogue members of Zimbabwe's military have been fingered in a massive cattle rustling syndicate that has rocked Masvingo province.
According to the Masvingo Beef Producers Association, armed soldiers are part of the gang terrorising communities which has led to the loss of 300 cattle in the first five months of 2019.
MBPA chairman Robert Makhado told NewZimbabwe.com in an interview last week that the soldiers, who are armed with rifles, shoot and slaughter the animals in the dead of night before ferrying the meat for sale in butcheries across the country.
"All our districts in the province are affected and we have evidence that armed military personnel are now part of the cattle rustling business and beef producers in the province our now living in fear.
"We have reported each armed stock theft case to the police and as an association, we are pleased by the police investigations," said Makhado.
According to Makhado, soldiers are among some of the people who have since been arrested but indicated there seem to be power at play given the cases are simply dying without any convictions.
"Police have managed to provide us with evidence implicating soldiers who came as far as Birchenough Bridge (on the fringes of Manicaland). Some soldiers have been arrested and taken to court but their cases die a natural death in the courts and our members are now worried," Makhado told NewZimbabwe.com.
Cattle ranching is a major source of income for arid regions like Masvingo and other parts of the country that receive low rainfall.
The beef producers chairman said farmers are now under siege.
"Government through the relevant ministries should intervene to protect us and solve the involvement of army personnel in stock theft cases.
"This is bound to destroy our only source of livelihood," Makhado said
Major parts of Masvingo rarely receive any rains and cattle remains a major source of wealth and livelihoods.
The rustling syndicates have also been reportedly targeting wildlife sanctuaries and at some point, late Provincial Governor and Zanu PF stalwart Shuvai Mahofa was reportedly part of the group.