Following the revelation by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that three separate cases of anthrax contamination have been reported in Lesotho, South Africa has shut trade borders with its neighbour.
With the announcement, imports of any live animals – or products related to those animals – have been banned.
According to Business Live, the WHO reported the first of the three outbreaks on 12 May 2019 and it caused the death of nearly 30 cattle.
Compounding Lesotho’s problems
It is terrible news for an already embattled wool industry in Lesotho. Just prior to the ban a battle was brewing between the South African Wool Testing Bureau and the Lesotho Wool Centre.
The South African institution claimed wool from their land-locked neighbour did not meet quality standards, while Stone Shi, head of the Lesotho Wool Centre, believes the decision was made because local farmers were worried about the competition.
It is important to note that Shi is not popular with farmers in Lesotho. They claim the center has not paid them for some time and, according to a report by Eye Witness News, even asked their South African counterparts to stop exporting to their country out of solidarity.
But none of that matters now as trade between the two countries, at least in terms of animals and their related products, seems likely to grind to a standstill until the anthrax situation is resolved.
The danger of anthrax
Anthrax is such a horrible compound that it was used as a weapon by military forces around the world until it was banned, along with many other biological weapons, by a multi-nation treaty signed in 1972. It kills quickly, horribly and painfully.
What makes it even more dangerous is that it can form spores when it comes into contact with oxygen, effectively making it an airborne contaminant. These are almost impossible to detect or stop until it is too late.
Warning to farmers and consumers
The South African department of agriculture urged all local livestock owners to make sure their herd’s vaccination against Anthrax is up-to-date.
They want farmers to report any sudden deaths to animals, but not to open the carcasses up as that may inadvertently facilitate further contamination.
For consumers, the best course of action is ensuring any animal products are bought from reputable sources.
“Make sure that the meat you buy originates from an abattoir that is registered in terms of the Meat Safety Act,” the department of agriculture said.
[Animals] slaughtered at these abattoirs are inspected before and after slaughter and only meat that is passed fit for human consumption is released from these registered abattoirs.”
Political relations between South Africa and Lesotho are likely to be pretty strained over the next days and weeks.
It is a far cry from three years ago when they released water from the Katse Dam to help relieve drought conditions in the Rainbow nation.