IN a groundbreaking development, National University of Science Technology (Nust) in Bulawayo’s Applied Genetic Testing centre (AGTC) has come up with a testing tool that will help in fighting worrying cases of cattle rustling hitting the country.
The development came following the arrest of Linda Mafu (39), Nkosiyabo Nyoni (34) and Ndabezihle Dube (24) for allegedly stealing three beasts in Esigodini, Matabeleland South Province.
The trio was arrested at a house in Magwegwe North in Bulawayo while offloading the carcasses from a Toyota Hilux.
Their arrest followed a tip-off from an anonymous caller who informed ZRP Magwegwe that the trio was offloading meat from the said vehicle and at the house in question.
Police reportedly rushed to the scene and upon seeing the police details, the trio fled leaving behind the carcasses and the vehicle.
In a bid to find out if the carcasses were indeed from the cattle which were stolen from Esigodini, following initial reports by the owner of the beasts, Acting Bulawayo police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Nomalanga Msebele said they had to engage the department of AGTC at Nust to do the DNA testing.
According to Nust’s AGTC representative Anita Dube during the tests they compared blood samples of a horn and valve which were left at the scene. They also compared the head and muscle tissues of the three carcasses recovered in Magwegwe North and blood stains from the vehicle which the carcasses were being offloaded from.
After testing the samples, Dube said DNA profiles matched.
“We found that DNA profiles from carcasses found in Magwegwe North and DNA profiles of the blood stains on the Toyota Hilux matched that of the three carcasses indicating that the car in question was the one which was also used to commit the crime.
“Also the DNA profiles from the horn and valve blood samples matched blood samples of the carcasses found in Magwegwe North,” said Dube.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele welcomed the development, describing it as a “first of its kind in the country”.
He said the development would be an effective tool in fighting rampant cattle rustling in the country.
“Cases of stock theft are on the rise in our province. However, the DNA testing method carried out by Nust’s AGTC is the first of its kind in the country which is a positive development that will help us in our investigations because scientific evidence is indisputable,” said Chief Insp Ndebele.
He said they would soon carry out raids to weed out unregistered meat dealers.
“If we find out that the meat dealer is selling uninspected meat, the dealer will be arrested,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Insp Ndebele urged farmers to always monitor their cattle and quickly make reports of any missing cattle.
“Farmers must not leave their cattle at the grazing land unattended and they must report any cases of missing cattle as soon as they discover that,” he said.
As of last year Matabeleland South province recorded 922 reports of stock theft.
The proximity of Matabeleland South province to Botswana and South Africa has also worsened the problem as syndicates are involved in cross-border stocktheft.