It is not easy keeping cows in the township

Kwathema resident hopes to have land for his cattle one day

By Kimberly Mutandiro

Photo of two people and cows
Vusi Mtwayi and his wife, Thelma, keep 20 cows at the back of their shack in Ekhuthuleni informal settlement in Kwathema. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

“I need a bigger piece of land,” says Vusi Mtwayi. “l hope to become a big cattle farmer one day, but that will not happen as long as I’m living in the township.”

Mtwayi and his wife, Thelma, keep 20 cows at the back of their shack in Ekhuthuleni informal settlement in Kwathema. Ten of the cows belong to a friend of Mtwayi who lives in a shack nearby.

Mtwayi hopes to be allocated a plot by the government one day where he can keep his cattle and other animals.

They have had the cattle for five years. There are reports of stock theft in Kwathema and Mtwayi prefers to keep his herd in his yard. At night he wakes up several times to check on them.

Every day just before 8am Mtwayi leads the cattle out of the kraal passing Kwathema men’s hostel, across Hadebe Street to Vlakfontein Road where there is open land and 10 kraals belonging to about 30 cattle owners who live in the area. Between them they have hundreds of cattle.

“There is no grass around our area,” says Mtwayi. The community burns the grass in cleanup projects, forcing the headsman to move further afield. “Our herdsmen have to go as far as Springs so the cattle can feed,” he says.

Mtwayi and his friend contribute R500 a month to pay a herdsman. “Young men, jobless, come and offer to herd the cattle. We give them what we can,” says Mtwayi.

Mtwayi grew up in Sterkspruit in Eastern Cape, where his family used to farm. Thelma grew up on a farm in Kimberley. At first they kept goats. Later they traded 15 goats for three cows. The herd increased to ten.

They sell milk in two-litre bottles for R20. People also come to buy manure for their gardens. Mtwayi estimates his cattle are worth R10,000 to R14,000. Thelma does not currently have a job and Mtwayi collects a disability grant.

Building their shack on a large piece of land at a corner of the informal settlement enabled Mtwayi and Thelma to create enough space for two kraals. In one kraal is a chicken run and calves. The second kraal is for the bigger cattle.

Not everyone is happy with their farming efforts however. People in the informal settlement tell him to take his cattle to the rural areas. Others complain the cows disturb their sleep with their mooing. Some people have threatened to have the cattle removed because it is not a farming area.

“It is not easy to keep cattle in the township. People are jealous because they think we have lots of money. They don’t know how difficult it is,” says Mtwayi.

Mtwayi says he plans to go to Pretoria one day and apply to government for a farm or a plot. In the meantime, he perseveres, keeping his cattle next to his shack.

Vusi Mtwayi herding cattle across Hadebe Street. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

Published originally on GroundUp .

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