Cattle fencing: Part Two…insight into cattle fencing law

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INTERNATIONALLY, laws exist to regulate how the cost of construction and maintenance of fences is to be allocated between the owners, or what should happen if one property owner wants a fence, while the owner of the adjoining property does not?
There are provisions in the laws regulating fences that run along property lines and also laws that regulate railroads.
Often the railroad company is required to fence in its right of way to minimise the damage trains can do to wandering livestock.
Frequently, statutes also address the question of legal liability when a train kills livestock.
Are local livestock farmers aware of what the requirements for a lawful fence in Zimbabwe are?
The construction of fences in Zimbabwe, according to Section 16 of the Government’s Animal Health Act, is required:
… (1) If, in the opinion of the Minister, it is necessary for the control of a disease or pest at any place in Zimbabwe or for preventing the introduction into or the spread within Zimbabwe of a disease or pest, he may —
(a) cause a fence, together with gates and grids, to be erected and maintained along or across any road, whether public or private, or upon or across or along the boundary of any land; or (b) order an owner of land to erect, maintain, repair or improve a fence, together with gates and grids, upon or across or along the boundary of his land within a time fixed by the Minister and in accordance with plans and specifications approved by the Minister.
(2) The cost of the erection, maintenance, repair or improvement of a fence, gates and grids referred to in subsection (1) shall be defrayed from moneys appropriated for the purpose by Act of Parliament: Provided that if the Minister is of the opinion that the erection, maintenance, repair or improvement of a fence, gate or grid in terms of subsection (1) will benefit the owner of the land upon or across which or the owners of the land on the boundary of which the fence, gate or grid is erected, the Minister may order the owner or, as the case may be, the owners of the land to make, on such conditions as the Minister may fix, such contribution, not exceeding one-half, in labour, money or materials towards the erection, maintenance, repair or improvement of the whole or any part of the fence, gate or grid specified by the Minister, as the Minister and the owner or the owners of the land may agree or, failing agreement, as may be determined by arbitration in terms of the Arbitration Act [Chapter 7:02].
(3) If, in the opinion of the Minister, a fence, gate or grid erected in terms of subsection (1) is no longer required for the purpose for which it was erected, the Minister may cause it or any part of it to be removed or to be sold or to be disposed of in such other manner as he may determine: Provided that if the Minister does not sell or dispose of a fence, gate or grid erected upon or across or along a boundary of land the owner or owners of which have made a contribution referred to in the proviso to subsection (2) to the owner or owners, the Minister shall, at the time the fence, gate or grid is removed, sold or disposed of, refund the money or, as the case may be, pay to the owner or owners an amount equal to the cost of the labour or materials contributed by the owner or owners towards the erection, maintenance, repair or improvement of the fence, gate or grid.
(4) Section thirteen shall apply, mutatis mutandis, in relation to a fence erected, maintained, repaired or improved in terms of subsection (1).
(5) No person shall, without the written consent of the Minister, remove or impair the efficacy of a fence, gate or grid erected, maintained, repaired or improved in terms of subsection (1).
(6) For the purposes of this section — ‘boundary’, in relation to an owner of land, includes a stream or river which lies immediately between or constitutes the boundary of his land and the land of some other owner.
Like most construction and maintenance works around a farm, fence construction requires proper decisions, procedures and sound logic, since each fencing job presents slightly different problems.
A few basic principles are a good starting point: Permanent fences will require decay-resistant fence posts.
The major advantages of the wooden gum poles commonly used in Zimbabwe is strength and resistance to bending, misalignment and withdrawal. Care must be given when buying wooden posts that the posts are properly treated against termites and for contact with the soil.
A fence that is properly erected and cared for will give long and trouble-free service; regular checking and maintenance is therefore essential.
Include some of the following suggestions in your regular maintenance programme:
– Repair or replace anchor post assemblies when-ever they show signs of weakness;
– Refasten loose wires to posts and splice broken wires when necessary;
– Keep the fence wires properly stretched. This is needed once or twice a year for high-tensile fences;
– Keep the fence line cleared from weeds and brush — especially along electric fences;
– Plan and follow a regular inspection routine for any needed maintenance.
Where a permanent fence is installed on a property line, make sure of the exact location of property lines.
A mistake here can be very costly. Once this is done and any trees and brush are removed, you are ready to establish the fence line.
Always work from the bottom up when installing wire. Install the bottom wire first, then the next highest.
Gates and/or cattle guards should both be sturdily built and adequately supported.
One of the most common (and aggravating) mistakes made when building fences is inadequate bracing of gates which results in gates dragging on the ground.
Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, lecturer, musician, art critic, practicing artist and corporate image consultant. He is also a specialist art consultant, post-colonial scholar, Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst and researcher. E-mail: tonym.MONDA@gmail.com

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