The story of the donkey in the North West province is a sad one. Most parts of the province make –up a large part of the former Bophuthatswana homeland under the rule of Kgosi Lucas Mangope. This where the painful story of the donkey began just over three decades ago.
About 31 years ago, Leah Mangope, the wife of the former strong man of the erstwhile Bophuthatswana homeland escaped a serious car accident involving a donkey when her chauffer driven car almost hit the ass on one of the rural roads of Bophuthatswana.
Mangope was so furious that he ordered the immediate wholesale slaughter of all donkeys in the homeland and the poor animals were massacred left- right- and- centre across the land. Mangope instructed his police and members of the Bop defence force to kill all donkeys. And so, the injustice against the donkey continued for several years in the region as the animal was culled mercilessly at Mangope’s behest.
The story of the donkey did not end there in the North West. The Bokone Bophirima province under the leadership of Premier Supra Mahumapelo is now entering into a new business and investment venture with The People’s Republic of China. The target? The Donkey.
Donkey meat is a popular delicacy in China and since the Chinese had during several of their recent visits to the North West discovered that due to its rural nature, the North West was home to thousands of donkeys, they could enter into further trade relations with the North West by importing donkey meet.
But is it not only donkey meat the Chinese are interested in. The most important part of their trade with the Supra Mahumapelo province will be donkey hide. It is the skin of the donkey they are really interest in.
According to MEC agriculture, Manketse Tlhape who returned last week with Mahumapelo from another trade mission in China, the Chinese had discovered that there is a layer of fat under the skin of the donkey. This is an important discovery because they have since established that the fat is very good in keeping especially Chinese women very young. In other words, Chinese women don’t age as fast as their counterparts in other countries. IT IS A FACT.
The fat is formulated into tablets and consumed on a daily basis by millions of Chinese residents hence their interest in the donkey skin.
That has however given rise to another problem for the poor donkey. There has now been an increase in the number of reports of donkeys being stolen for illegal slaughter in the North West with people in the region pilling –up stocks of donkey skin for export to China . The problem has also now spread into the Northern Cape and Free State.
This challenge has now caused increased work for both the police and the SPCA. Inspector Matome Semenya from the National SPCA reminded communities this week that working donkeys were valuable animals because they support families in collecting water, wood, food and supplies and in transporting people to clinics and collecting grants.
“When donkeys are stolen, this can have a devastating effect on the families who rely on them. He expressed concern that stolen donkeys from communities were being slaughtered inhumanly and illegally for their hides.
He also urged communities to be aware and be alert and report any suspicious activities to the police. Anyone with information can contact Inspector Semenya at the National SPCA offices on 011 – 907 3590/1.
For the record, there are several legal processes to be followed before people can even hope to start to trade in donkey meat and hide or enter into partnerships with the Chinese by supplying them with donkey meat or skin. The route to China has not yet been officially opened so stealing other people’s donkey will only get culprits into trouble with the law. Donkey breeders still have to enter into contracts with the provincial authorities before they can commence trading in donkey meat and skin.