A livestock owner from Ndlovukazi village has equated the municipal pound in Komani, where impounded stray animals are kept, to punishment cells.
Zinikele Hadi watched in dismay as his frail, emaciated cow fought for her life at the pound in Green Street last week.
A visibly upset Hadi, 66, said the sight of the ‘dying’ animal hurt him deeply. “This is my cow. I am hurt because several times when I have come here I have found the animals starving,” he lamented.
He said he had been searching for the animal for weeks. “It is not the first time. Goats and other animals die here. Why do they take the animals in if they cannot feed them?”
Hadi said livestock was his livelihood. “I am unemployed and I depend on these animals. If our animals are left to die like this, what do (the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) and animal pound staff) expect us to survive on?”
He argued that an animal kept in such an enclosure needed to be fed so that when the owner reclaimed it, it was “fat and fresh so that even if you are penalised, you can see that your animal is healthy”.
Instead, he said, the animals were taken to the ‘kulukudu’ (a name given to little cells apparently used for spare-diet and solitary confinement on Robben Island during apartheid years) where they would die.
Hadi clarified that the reason their animals left their enclosures was not due to the owners’ negligence, but a damaged fence. They had had fencing around their own Bokospak pound in Ndlovukazi, but the recent rains had brought the fence to the ground.
“We have been to the municipality to ask for fencing because the cattle escape as our fence was brought down by the rain. The municipality promises us, but does not deliver. It is not that we cannot do it ourselves – we will do the labour, they must just provide us with the fence,” said Hadi.
Two other livestock owners corroborated Hadi’s account. “The story is the same – we come [to the municipal pound] every year because neighbouring farmers bring our cattle to the pound. The problem is fencing,” said Fumanekile Smayile, also 66.
He said Cllr Zukiswa Ralane of the department of community services had promised to help them with a fence and mediate between the livestock owners and their neighbours. None of the promises were fulfilled, said Smayile.
Siphiwo Thezaphi, another animal owner from Ndlovukazi said: “We are in pain.” He said Cllr Ralane even declared their fencing challenges a disaster.
A manager at the pound rejected the owners’ claims.
EMLM spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the municipality had, for years, been taking care of all impounded livestock in municipal facilities. “These animals are fed on a daily basis, provided with water and other necessities. They are fed with lucerne and also herded for grazing.
“Currently there are nearly 300 animals and only two are sick or unhealthy, but they are being taken care of. One of the cows has been in municipal premises since before lockdown and the owner finally showed up recently,” Kowa said.
He also rejected the animal owners’ claims that they were promised a fence. “Cllr Ralane or municipal officials never made any promise to erect a fence. Subsistence farmers from Ndlovukazi complained about a commercial farmer who constantly impounded their livestock. Cllr Ralane only made a proposal that a meeting with the said farmer should be held in order to find common ground.
“She further advised farmers to work with the ward councillor and contact the department of rural development and agrarian reform on the issue of fencing. That was the last interaction and no feedback was provided. The department of community services headed by Cllr Ralane is still available for any assistance and advice to these farmers,” said Kowa.