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Karonga: a free- town for loitering cattle

Written by  Leonard Masauli
A Cow grazing on one of government offices dumping sites -Pic by Leonard Masauli A Cow grazing on one of government offices dumping sites -Pic by Leonard Masauli

Karonga, December 18: It is eight o’clock on a busy Monday morning in Karonga. As usual, the weather is already hot, hitting around 28 degrees Celsius. 

People are already up and down, rushing for work and businesses using bicycle taxis commonly known as “cargo” in this lakeshore district.

The noise of cars hooting from all angles of the town signifies how busy the border district is. Surprisingly, the noise from the motorists does not only target pedestrians but also the numerous herds of cattle infesting the roads and the business town areas.

A visit to the district, one would think the cattle have just gone astray from their master. But another sighting the following day reveals that this is not a one-off thing. It is more of an everyday occurrence that has now become normal despite the situation having some negative consequences.

The cattle majestically infest the town and government offices’ premises grazing on anything including used plastic carrier bags. And on lucky days, they sometimes graze on maize cobs and rotten bananas peelings.

The presence of these cattle around town does not only disturb the vendors from conducting their businesses normally, but also the motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and government officers.

These animals at times behave abnormally when startled thereby creating panic and becoming a nuisance and a threat to people’s lives.

Some people around Karonga Town are not pleased with this situation.

Happy Mwansangwale, a retail shop owner at Karonga Town, says it is worrying to see that the number of cattle left unattended is increasing.

“It is surprising that the owners release the animals to loiter around the town instead of directing them to grazing areas outside the town,” says Mwansangwale.

He adds that a good number of road traffic accidents along the M1 Road passing through Karonga Town are caused by unnecessary loitering of these cattle.

He cited a recent incident when unidentified man survived by a hair’s breadth after he ran into a cow with his cruising motor cycle.

One of the cyclists at the boma, Makaiko Phiri, says he wished if the district council acted with urgency to deal with the situation because the town no longer looks beautiful with the cattle dung drops everywhere.

“I have been a cyclist for two years now and these cattle are almost found everywhere in the town. They just walk around in different premises like they are fellow human beings,” Phiri says.

Over the years, the presence of cattle in roads and other premises in and outside Karonga Town has been costly.

 In November 2012, two staff members of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) from Mzuzu died in a road accident along M1 Road at Lupembe in the district. This was after a driver had failed to control their vehicle in an attempt to avoid a cow which had suddenly walked into the road.

Recent incidents also paint a gloomy picture of the situation.

Deputy Police Spokesperson for Karonga, George Mulewa, says an assessment report of road accidents from January to October this year shows that five people died because of accidents mainly caused by uncontrolled cattle movements.

He says two of the accidents happened along Karonga- Chitipa Road while the other three occurred along Karonga- Mzuzu M1 Road.

“From January to around October this year, we registered about five accidents in which five people lost their lives with others sustaining others serious injuries.

“Uncontrolled movement of cattle is a serious threat to motorists in the district and we always urge people to drive cautiously,” Mulewa says.

Although the situation looks to be out of hand, locals feel that it can be controlled if proper measures are put in place to avoid accidents in this crowded and busy town of Karonga.

Mwansangwale believes Karonga District Council should have a good urban structure plan that defines space for grazing animals as well as having by laws to regulate the same.

“We previously had by-laws to prevent and address such situation. The owners of cattle were being fined a good amount of money ranging from K1, 500 to K2, 000 on each cow found loitering in town. This instilled sanity into the cattle owners.

“We do not know where the by-laws ended up to and it is now over two years since the returned to the streets and marketplaces,” says Mwansangwale.

He observes that the animals have now become more of road users than what they are expected to be.

Mwansangwale adds: “We share roads with them like there are also pedestrians and motorists.”

Chairperson for Karonga District Council Harry Mwanyembe says the council is aware of the problem and is working on how best to handle the situation by among other things reviewing by-laws for proper cattle management around and within the town.

 “We are also thinking of subcontracting someone to manage the loitering cattle which the council will be confiscating.  We will also maintain the wired fence we planted as a kraal for such cattle which will only be released to the owner upon paying a fine,” Mwanyembe says.


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