A Mr Kavitjene from Tallismanus recently called me, accusing veterinary services of punishing him and many others, because of a few culprits who smuggle cattle from Botswana.
Apparently he had bought a bull from a commercial farm, which he expected to mount his cows. Most farmers are aware the ideal mating season is between January and April and Mr Kavitjene is desperate to utilise his new expensive bull. Unfortunately, the villages in Rietfontein (Otjombinde) and Eiseb in Otjombinde Constituency, Omaheke Region, are currently under restricted animal movement due to a couple of people sneaking in cattle from Botswana into Namibia.
The animals were found on hoof on the way to being sold at a Livestock Permit Sale. The area under quarantine means “no animal in or out of the area”.
This smuggling of cattle (and sometimes horses, goats and sheep) has been intermittently ongoing for years, especially in the villages bordering Botswana. It has actually been three to four years since the last illegal smuggling of cattle from Botswana occurred and I actually thought people were now aware of the dire consequences of these actions. It is quite disappointing for veterinary services and stakeholders in such areas to deal with the consequences of illegal animal smuggling.
My concern is, as much as veterinary services and the police give warnings and raise public awareness to farmers about the consequences of illegal smuggling of animals, people dare to do it again and again. Why? I thus wish to once again warn local farmers about the impact of illegal smuggling of cattle.
Firstly, any theft of animals is illegal by law. It does not matter whether or not you steal animals and move them within the country or from outside. You will get your appropriate punishment. But stealing and smuggling cattle across the border is even worse, because then the animal health status of our country is compromised. Therefore, the economy of this beautiful country and the livelihood of most of our people who depend on the livestock sector will be severely jeopardised.
That said, Namibia is divided into different zones; the free zone where animals freely have access to lucrative markets, the protection zone covering the central northern communal areas except the Kavango East and the Zambezi Region that is classified as an ‘infected zone’, according to the threat of food and mouth disease (FMD). Omaheke Region, which is in the free zone, stands to lose its status if illegal smuggling of animals from Botswana continues.
Is that what we want; for our free zone to be compromised? I’m sure all our farmers, especially those whose livelihood depends on their livestock will shout “No!”
If we follow the Rietfontein/Eiseb case, the ‘areas under quarantine’ means strict measures have been imposed to contain, locate and test the smuggled cattle for FMD. The cattle are in the meantime put under police custody until a final decision is taken to determine their fate.
To the local farmers; the quarantined areas significantly designate all livestock gatherings in places, such as auctions, permit sales and animal shows. Thus, most villagers might not have the cash to pay for the necessities like school fees, buy animal feeds, vaccines and treatment drugs. Like Mr Kavitjene’s livestock, breeding programmes of animals might be disrupted in the process.
To top the magnitudes of smuggling of animals from Botswana, the local farmers tend to cut down the international border fences, to cross over with the stolen animals. Seriously, we are already forced to deal with elephants breaking our fences. Now we have to repair the fence, because perpetrators have cut it down for their own illegal use! This is costing Government lots of money. Thus, as patriotic farmers, let’s be vigilant in guarding the animal health status of our country, especially in the free zone, so as not to jeopardise our export to foreign markets. Laws are there for a reason and unless every farmer takes ownership of the area they farm in and jealously guard against these dangerous undertakings, we will move a step back every time. No more illegal smuggling of cattle from Botswana!