With less than 27 months left on his presidential term – President Hage Geingob is adamant to see the removal of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF/redline) before the culmination of his term in office.
President Geingob made these remarks when he addressed the media this week at State House.
“Yes, it[redline] is something that I want to see removed (during my term). We are busy with the Angolan government. We are talking. First there was a proposal of a wall or a fence (between Angola and Namibia), but it is not an easy thing to do. So we are talking,” said Geingob in an encounter with this reporter.
The VCF has been in place for over 27 years after the attainment of Namibia’s political independence despite numerous promises by Government to remove it.
The situation has led to socio-economic loses to the greater Namibian population who live north of the line as the line’s presence has barred them from entering the mainstream of Namibia’s meat industry, politicians and ordinary Namibians have argued.
Geingob made it clear that his view on the removal of the redline is not new as it dates back to his time as the first prime minister of independent Namibia.
“Redline is a problem. When I was negotiating with the European Union (EU), nobody was supporting. I was talking about the redline…let us remove the redline altogether. (The) redline was complicated because our market depends on EU inspection. And as long as you don’t address the Angolan border, it will be difficult to remove the redline,” said Geingob.
The President’s stance on the redline is premised on the fact that the majority of cattle in Namibia (over 2 million) are found in the Northern Communal Area (NCA), which is north of the redline.
Despite promising to remove the redline, past Namibian governments have come and gone but the VCF, dubbed a “political divisive lie” has remain well intact.
Like his predecessors, Geingob wants to see the redline removed.
Earlier this year, permanent secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Percy Misika said the redline was still in place because all efforts to obtain Foot and Mouth Disease and Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) free status have been unsuccessful.
Misika said that the FMD outbreak in 2015 was a major setback in Namibia’s quest to obtain FMD and CBPP free status.
“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 without threatening the entire livestock sector of Namibia,” Misika said.
The removal of the redline has been a hotly debated issue in recent times by politicians and ordinary Namibians alike.
In an interview with this publication, Maria Shapumba, a resident of the northern town of Oshivelo in the Oshikoto region branded the VCF “inhumane”.
“Its presence is inhumane. Even if we want to bring our livestock, like a goat for consumption purposes, you will have to wait for a specific period while it is quarantined. On the other side, your family is forced to buy meat at exorbitant prices,” said Shapumba when The Patriot visited the town.
Like Namibia, Oshivelo is also divided into two by the redline, with some residents finding themselves on the northern and others on the southern part of the fence.
Additionally, Rally for Democracy and Progress lawmaker Mike Kavekotora holds the view that the fence is a mere “political lie” that has been used to divide Namibians.
In its crudest form, the VCF is a physical fence that separates the Northern Communal Areas (NCA) from the rest of Namibia.
The demarcation was partly created with the aim of controlling the spread of Rinderpest outbreak as well and to avoid black people’s cattle from mixing with the white people’s cattle in the central and south of the country.
Since 1960s, the line has been used to isolate FMD and CBPP outbreaks in the North from the farms in the South.