National Abattoir under probe

MASERU – The National Abattoir is under investigation for allegedly selling meat condemned by inspectors and slaughtering animals that had not been inspected, the Lesotho Times can reveal.

Meraka Lesotho (Pty) Ltd, a company owned by a consortium of local investors, has been running the Abattoir since last year.

Source at the abattoir said last Friday inspectors approved 54 cattle for slaughter but officials from Meraka Lesotho ordered that an additional 18 be slaughtered.

The source said after approving the slaughter of 54 cows the inspectors went for lunch and they never came back.

Meraka Lesotho’s officials then allegedly instructed that 18 more cattle be slaughtered.

If calculated on the assumption that an average carcass weighs about 240 kg it means that nearly 4.3 tonnes (4320 kg) of uninspected meat is now in the market.

Meraka Lesotho is the only company licenced abattoir operator in Lesotho.

Local shops, supermarkets, butcheries and wholesalers buy their meat from the National Abattoir.

And with South Africa having banned meat exports due to the foot and mouth disease outbreak in February, the local market now relies heavily on the National Abattoir.

Since the ban was imposed the National Abattoir has been battling to supply the local market.

It has been forced to buy cattle from local farmers.

Because local farmers don’t rear their animals for commercial beef they normally only sell cattle that are aged or those that they do not want.

Their animals don’t go through the same rearing process like the ones produced by commercial farmers.

Local farmers rarely use veterinary doctors to inspect their cattle for diseases.

So far the abattoir is getting all its animals from local farmers.

It is understood that apart from illegally slaughtering 18 extra cattle officials at Meraka also ordered that intestines that had been condemned by the inspectors be washed and sold to the market.

The Meraka Lesotho board chairperson ’Mammako Molapo said she could not comment because she had not received any report about the allegations.

“I am not in a position to comment. I will have to go to the abattoir first to find out what is happening,” Molapo said.

Tabitha Seeiso, head of the veterinary section in the government’s livestock department, is understood to be leading the team investigating the allegations.

Seeiso however declined to comment saying she had to seek permission from her superiors before talking to the press about the investigations.

But an independent meat inspector engaged by the Livestock Department, Lengau Lepolesa, said he heard of the allegations against the abattoir.

“I am not at work today but I heard the allegations and tomorrow we will go on with our investigations,” Lepolesa said on Tuesday.

“I can’t confirm that but all I can say is this is a serious issue that deserves a thorough investigation,” he said.

Lepolesa said he was aware that some of the cattle were slaughtered during a prayer session of the Muslims on Friday, which meant that Islamic rite to cleanse them so that the meat meets the specifications of the Muslim community was not followed.

He said: “Some cows are specially put aside to be prayed for by an imam (religious leader) so that they can be declared halaal or clean according to the Islamic religion”.

“If the abattoir managed to slaughter some cows without the knowledge of the Islamic religion representative, it means that it is possible that they can slaughter some in our absence,” Lepolesa said.

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