GOAT traders in Bulawayo have been exempted from going on lockdown after being deemed an essential service while vegetable vendors may soon return, albeit under health officials’ supervision.

The country is under a 21-day lockdown to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

This entails that all non-essential service providers should stay at home save for shops, health practitioners, pharmacies among other critical service providers.

The goat sellers have remained at their spots near Eziphaleni in Bulawayo’s Kelvin Industrial Site where the animals graze.

Bulawayo Health Services director Dr Edwin Sibanda said goat sellers are part of those exempted from the lockdown under the agricultural produce sector.

He said vegetable vendors could not let their produce go to waste and would be allowed to trade under supervision.

When a Chronicle news crew visited the goat traders’ operating base, some of the vendors rushed to the crew’s vehicle hoping that they could sell one or two animals.

The goats are selling for between R400 and R600.

Upon learning that the news crew wanted to talk to them on Covid-19 and the national lockdown, they said they could not shut down because their animals would starve to death.

One of them, Mr Nqobile Dube, said if they kept the animals on lockdown, they can be arrested for cruelty to animals.

“If the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) officials and Bulawayo City Council rangers find us having locked up the goats in the 21-day period, they will definitely charge us with cruelty to animals. So that is the reason why we are here. We are aware that there is a national lockdown but do we allow the animals to starve to death?” asked Mr Dube.

Another goat trader Mr Lazarus Dube said they were observing social distancing, one of the measures that can prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“The goats are crowded but not us. So, we are also trying to observe laid down regulations although we are not in our homes. If you check we are fewer, compared to those queuing for mealie-meal. We are never crowded. We have only converged in one place to talk to you,” said Mr Dube, who was part of about seven goat sellers that spoke to the news crew.

He said the lockdown was implemented when they had just brought new stocks.

Mr Dube said a week before the lockdown they had brought in new goats from Beitbridge and Gwanda in Matabeleland South,

Another seller Mr Mlungisi Moyo said if it was not for the goats they would have remained at home as they are recording low business.

Dr Sibanda, explaining the city council position said: “Maybe even vendors of perishable products, you might see them coming back to the streets but with restrictions. How do you tell tomatoes to stop ripening and chickens to stop laying? So, such things are allowed to continue.”

He said he was not aware of the Covid-19 transmission threats from humans to animals although, it is believed the virus emanated from animals.

“We have not heard of a situation where people infect their animals. But we have only read with very little evidence that the disease came from bats and other animals eaten from China, but reading about people transmitting from themselves to the animals, I don’t think we have enough knowledge to comment authoritatively,” he [email protected]