Collapse, Conflict or Social Cohesion? Learning from Livestock Dipping Associations in Kwazulu-Natal

This working paper is about the revival of communal cattle dipping in post-apartheid KwaZulu-Natal, which has improved animal healthcare and strengthened the livelihoods of the black rural households that keep cattle in the province. Given that the authoritarian system of apartheid era livestock dipping fell apart during South Africa’s democratic transition, this is a remarkable achievement. Other provinces have struggled to revive dipping – such that tick borne diseases are endemic along the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape, for instance. By contrast, perhaps 90-95% of the 1600-odd dip tanks in KwaZuluNatal are run relatively well by local Livestock Associations, which organise regular cattle dipping in conjunction with the provincial government’s vet services department. There are opportunities to strengthen and expand the remit of the Livestock Associations: these remarkable organs of civil society which might be collectively collecting R450 million in membership fees each year. There is also much to learn from KwaZulu-Natal’s example. At a time when much is written about the weakness of government institutions in rural South Africa, here is a quiet, largely unnoticed, ‘success story’ of an effective relationship between the state and civil society that we would do well to understand.