Government will compensate its cattle farmers with millions of Pula following the culling of cattle in the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) area in 2011.
High Court Judge Justice Zein Kebonang has ruled in favor of farmers who sought an injunction against the government. The injunction was pursued after the government decided to provide compensation of P1,700 per beast to farmers whose cattle were culled due to Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) back in 2011. Government also offered the same compensation after culling uninfected cattle in the Zone 6 area around Tonota in the northern part of Botswana.
The case has been described as the longest in the history of Botswana after it was first registered in 2011. Kebonang explained that the case reached his chamber after it had been determined by Nyamadzabo in 2017.
“Nyamadzabo’s decision was subsequently vacated by the Court of Appeal which then directed that it be heard by a different judge,” said Kebonang.
The case originates from the farmers’ move to petition the High Court to overturn the government’s decision, made around August 2011, to conduct mass culling of infected and uninfected cattle in the vicinity of Tonota and east of A1, Gaborone-Francistown Road, particularly in and around Mmabobowe, Tshetlhae, and the surrounding areas. Government defended the mass culling saying the move was to eliminate the threat of FMD in the area.
Farmers asked the court to reject the decision by the government to compensate them with P1 700 per beast and said it was unreasonable to declare the whole of Zone 6 as an infected area when it wasn’t.
The farmers argued that P1700 as compensation was imposed on them as they were not consulted. They prefer to be compensated to the tune of P4000. The government denied that its decision was to randomly cull cattle and said the compensation was sufficient.
The government argued that the FMD is a highly contagious and communicable ailment, posing severe repercussions for the country and its citizens. The government emphasized that FMD jeopardizes the nation’s beef and allied products industry, along with its hard-earned reputation as a prominent beef-exporting nation. Additionally, the government argued that the culling of animals was justified as a measure to expedite the recovery of Zone 6 and to facilitate its reopening to the international market.
In his judgement, Kebonang stated that the amount of compensation for any loss or dispossession of property must be fair. Without committing to a figure, the judge advised the government to consider the fair market value of the animals culled.
He said it is not clear how the government settled for P1700 for both infected and uninfected cattle.
“There is no explanation from the respondent why this was so,” said the judge. He said the government’s decision was irrational in that it placed the same value on infected and uninfected animals.
“Common sense dictates that the valuations should have been different,” said Kebonang.
The judge remarked that the requested amount of P4000.00 by the farmers cannot be considered an appropriate indicator of the fair market value. This is due to its considerable remoteness in time, especially considering the current year is 2023. Consequently, the determination of what should constitute fair market value is referred to the Registrar for further consideration.