'Auctioneer' accused of deliberately spreading foot and mouth disease in Limpopo
Durban - A man, supposedly an auctioneer, has been arrested for allegedly deliberately spreading foot and mouth disease (FMD) in the Limpopo province.
South Africa's minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, said on Wednesday that she welcomed the arrest.
“The outbreak of FMD in the Limpopo province has had a devastating effect on the economy of the country as a whole, and it is estimated that it has cost a lot of money, with the most severe effects felt by the red meat industry," said Didiza in an emailed statement.
She thanked the South African Police Service (SAPS) for "acting swiftly" to ensure the suspect was arrested.
The department said it opened a case with the police following the "suspicious spread" of the disease. The suspect was arrested and charged with contravention of the Animals Disease Act.
He appeared in court on Monday. The case was postponed to March 23 for further information, and the suspect released on bail.
"It is alleged that he knowingly received cloven hoofed animals that were moved out of the FMD controlled area and subsequently sold and moved those animals at various auctions and to various individuals," according to Didiza.
She urged citizens that may have bought livestock - or were concerned they may have purchased livestock - from the suspect to contact the department's law enforcement unit and their local state vet, as soon as possible.
The latest outbreak was first detected in the province in November last year. Earlier this month, the department said the total number of locations that tested positive for FMD since November was sitting at 15.
A task team was established to contain the spread of the disease. All properties where FMD was confirmed were placed under quarantine and cloven hoofed animals were not allowed to move off those properties.
A national ban was placed on the gathering of cloven hoofed animals from two or more properties, for distribution to two or more properties, in December.
The ban is being challenged in court by farmers and auctioneers from the country's remaining provinces, none of which have been affected.