Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) secretary general Mike Kavekotora has taken on government over its reluctance to remove the Veterinary Cordon Fence.
Kavekotora charged that the redline is a political lie which has been used to isolate those northern communities from full integration into Namibia’s mainstream economy.
The Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF/redline) has remained in-tact almost three decades after Namibia’s political independence, despite numerous promises by Government to remove it.
Speaking to this reporter yesterday, Kavekotora branded the redline a “political lie”.
“It[redline] is a political lie. For the redline to be still in place, 27 years after Namibia’s independence is because of Swapo politics. They are playing the politics of lies,” charged Kavekotora.
Kavekotora added: “In 2006, I was part of a delegation from Kunene that went to the then minister of agriculture, Dr. Nicky Iyambo. He[Iyambo] told us at the time that by next year, the redline will be a thing of the past because it has been discovered there was now prevalence of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP). It has been contained and that vaccinations were up to date.”
According to Kavekotora, instead of having the VCF in place, Iyambo said: “We will divide the Northern Communal Area (NCA) into units, and fence those units off. Should there be a breakout of any disease, then it will be contained in one specific area and not affect the entire NCA.”
Kavekotora said the redline was not removed in 2007 as the proposal by the agriculture ministry was met with strong resistance from Swapo party supporters who benefit greatly from its presence.
“He heard later that the people in the former Ovamboland (Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Oshana) said they buy cattle from the people of Kaokoland (Kunene) at give-away prices. And that if Swapo[government] go ahead and remove the redline, they would not be able to compete with the rest of Namibia in the meat market and therefore we are not going to vote for Swapo anymore. That is what prevented the redline from being removed,” he claimed.
The RDP Parliamentarian added government had gone as far as sourcing funds to that effect, but it went in the air as the majority of Swapo voters were against the idea.
“They are playing with the lives and livelihoods of the people in the Kunene are depended on farming, especially cattle faring,” Kavekotora further noted.
To the dismay of Kunene’s inhabitants, there has been no FMD or CBPP outbreaks in Kunene region for the last 30 years, but the region has to bear the consequences of the VCF as other NCA members.
However the region suffers the same consequences if an outbreak is noticed in any of the NCA member region.
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, according to the agriculture ministry.
On the other end, however, 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 Namibian.
Responding to The Patriot earlier this year, 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 most recent outbreak in the northern communal areas was resolved in 2016 and marked a significant reversal of fortunes after years of absence of FMD in those areas.
Outbreaks of FMD have also been reported in the Kavango East and Zambezi region in 2015. This therefore, makes it very difficult to remove the VCF without threatening the entire livestock sector of Namibia,” Misika said at the time.
Northern communal area
Since 1990, the number of cattle in the NCA have increased from 600 000 to about 1.25 million. An increase in cattle numbers has considerably increased the grazing pressure, necessitating farmers to utilize grazing inside the borders of Angola where vast fields of grazing exist.
Over a number of years, this custom has led to the establishment of villages and families on either side of the border, and Namibian cattle can be found as far as 200 km north into Angola.
Movement of cattle across this border is a daily occurrence, with cattle in some instances drinking in Namibia and grazing in Angola.
The establishment of crops as a means of income and self-sustainability mean that less land in the NCA is available for grazing. Seasonal movements of cattle also occur, as after the harvest time cattle return to Namibia to feed on the residue.
Against this background, it can be seen that the movement of cattle into and out of Angola has become a part of everyday life in areas along the border.
The establishment of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) has resulted in the restoration of elephant herds in the South-Eastern Part of Angola. The possibility exists that African Buffalo have also moved towards this area, creating a greater opportunity for cattle – buffalo contact in Southern Angola.