Government has provided reasons why the Veterinary Cordon Fence (redline) is still intact almost three decades after independence, outlining the failure to attain Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) free status in areas north of the redline being the primary reason.
Responding to questions sent by this publication, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Percy Misika said the redline is still in place 27 years after Independence because all efforts to obtain FMD and CBPP free status have not been successful.
“The endemnicity if FMD and CBPP as show by sporadic outbreaks of these diseases. The most recent outbreak in the northern communal areas was resolved in 2016 and marked a significant reversal in of fortunes after years of absence of FMD in that areas. Outbreaks of FMD have also been reported in the Kavango East and Zambezi region in 2015. This therefore, makes very difficult to remove the VCF (Veterinary Cordon Fence) without threatening the entire livestock sector of Namibia,” he explained.
He added: “Parts of the Kavango East and Zambezi regions are known to be reservoirs of the FMD virus due to significant numbers of free roaming African Buffaloes. Despite having adverse impact on the majority of the Namibian populace who live north of the VCF, having a border fence in place is the most effective way to control animal diseases at this point.”
“The most effective way to control livestock disease is by erecting a border fence but it is well understood that such a fence will to some extent have some adverse socio-economic effects on communities living along the borders and as such it has to be approached cautiously through wider consultation of both internal and external stakeholders,” he added.
On the other end of the sword however, in recent times Members of Parliament, regional Governors and the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) all calling for the immediate removal of the redline. Those who preach for the removal of the VCF have described it as “divisive and colonial” tool that was used by former colonial regimes to oppress that majority of Namibians.
The presence of the redline has been described as the “maintenance” of the status quo – to divide and oppress Namibia, as was the case with former regime.
There have been allegations by some opposition parties that the Swapo Party-led government always promises to remove the redline during elections and campaigns but in actual fact, does little or nothing to see the practical removal of the said line.
To this, the Ministry was quick to refute the claim stating government has focused on the removal of the VCF and the nullification of its negative impacts since 1990.
“The government continues to unabatedly pursue this goal (removal of VCF). It is true that many Namibians, especially the majority of the Namibian population residing north of the Veterinary Cordon Fence view the redline as a politically divisive tool created by the Apartheid South African regime during the country’s dark days of colonialism.
However, the current use of the VCF is purely to control the spread of the Food and Mouth Disease and the CBPP from endemic areas to disease free areas south of the fence,” noted Misika. To substantiate this claim, Misika said: “As such, the gates along the fence have since independence seized to be police checkpoints and are today used purely to control the movement of livestock and livestock products from FMD and CBPP endemic areas to the southern FMD and CBPP free zones. The above reasons therefore informs government’s position of the Veterinary Cordon Fence.”
In the past however, the checkpoints (gates) along the VCF were used to control the movement of people to and from the southern parts of the country by the Apartheid South African regime.
Asked about a possible date by which the redline would be removed, Misika said: “It is difficult to commit to specific dates for the removal of the VCF.
Rather, it is more rational to focus on the time frames for the completion of critical activities. It is more important to finalise the consultation process and only then can all the stakeholders, guided by the FMD and CBPP eradication strategies in place, commit to a date which in any case must be agreed upon by the Cabinet.”
Misika was quick to point out that it was not correct to say nothing was being done to remove of nullify the adverse impact of the caused by the VCF.
According to Misika, efforts by government have been put in place to eradicate FMD and CBPP which involves the vaccination and destocking of livestock north of the VCF.
To this end, Cabinet has set up a Task Force headed by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah to “spearhead” the consultative process with the affected stakeholders.