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By Kelvin Chiringa

The Meat Board has commenced with electrifying sections of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF), in an attempt to protect the integrity of the fence and the Foot and Mouth Disease-Free Zone, according to the Namibia Agricultural Union.

The red line was erected in the 1890s during the German colonisation of South West Africa to control livestock infectious diseases.

Later, the South African apartheid regime used the redline to control the movement of people and livestock from the northern regions to the south.

After independence, the government promised to address the redline issue, but this has not happened yet.

The media has reported in the past that there is an estimated 1,6 million head of cattle, about 700 000 goats, and 430 000 sheep north of the redline.

The electrification has started at a time when a pitted legal battle is set to play out in the Windhoek High Court as the City of Windhoek mayor, Job Amupanda, is pushing for the removal of the redline.

The union has said that the electrification was necessary as Namibia’s elephant population has grown to such an extent in recent years that the Veterinary Cordon Fence has been damaged regularly, and the contractors responsible for maintaining the fence struggle to keep up with repairing breaks.

Amupanda is on record stating, “Black people are constantly screened to ensure they do not carry any diseases to the south of the redline.”

A distance of 108 km has been earmarked for electrification, and will be completed in phases of 15 km, said NAU.

At the same time the mayor is suing the government of the Republic of Namibia, the agriculture minister, Calle Schlettwein, the attorney general, as well as a veterinary official, whom he has accused of confiscating his meat on the 17th of May 2021.

Writer, Alvenus Dreyer in a recent opinion piece, he pointed out that, “The red line issue is not an issue to be sorted by a court… it is important that the Namibian government makes a strong case when requesting to have Amupanda’s case suspended”.

In other agricultural developments, according to the Namibia Agricultural Union inflation data, the cost of producing livestock has been on a rise resulting in producers paying more for inputs.

The union which publishes latest statistics on the sector also said that livestock producers paid about 7.0% more for their inputs in the first half of 2021, as opposed to the same period in 2020.

The increase resulted from price increases in fuel (7.7%), maintenance and fixed improvements (12.9%), capital expenditure (17.4%) and medicinal costs (6.6%).

“A rise in the cost of transportation had a negative impact on imported products,” said the union.

Livestock producers received better prices in 2021 (Jan-Jun) than in 2020 (Jan-Jun).

Sheep prices improved by 26.0%, and cattle prices grew by more than 17.6%.

Cattle prices increased because of a 21.8% and 11.4% improvement in the price of weaners and oxen, respectively.

The production and sale of weaners remained more profitable than ox production, because on average the weaner price as percentage of the slaughter price stood at 76% in 2021 (Jan-Jun)

Notably, the weaner price dropped slightly with 5.3% from quarter 1 (Q1) of 2021 to Q2-2021.

The drop in the price of weaners could have resulted from an increase in grain prices, which affected feedlot input costs leading to a low demand for weaners.

“Weaner prices are variable, and the weaner production system has a high drought risk. The system is risky, in that it consists largely of breeding cows, and during drought, herd reduction occurs resulting in a good number of cows being marketed.

“This poses a challenge to the system because breeding stock after a drought is always highly priced. Still, the weaner production system has been the most profitable over the past five years,” said the union.

The government intends to fight a lawsuit in which Affirmative Repositioning (AR) activist Job Amupanda demanded the removal of the veterinary cordon fence (VCF), also known as the red line.


During the second national land conference in 2018, the government was directed to start the gradual removal of the border.

There are three possible solutions that had to be considered – gradual removal, which would require a physical border to be built between Namibia and Angola, the translocation of the fence to the border with Angola, and the creation of zones that are free of foot-and-mouth disease and lung sickness within 30km on both sides of the border. This was to be done according to the World Organisation for Animal Health standards.

In June 2020, agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein said the N$15m budget for the redline as inadequate for any of the suggested solutions.

According to Schlettwein, the budget was not even enough for the construction of a double-stock fence between the two countries – Namibia and Angola.

“In its current state the red line is more than an animal disease control barrier. It has, in the eyes of the general public, become a political and socio-economic barrier that continues to divide the country into two distinct economies.

“The ideal solution would be the construction of a fence along the border between Namibia and Angola, but the N$15 million allocated for this purpose in the current financial year is not sufficient to commence with the construction of a double-stock proof fence over 450 kilometres,” Schlettwein told the media last year.

The minister further said his ministry planned to mitigatory activities to address one of the resolutions of the second national land conference.

He listed constructing abattoirs to enhance beef value-chain addition in the northern communal areas (NCAs). This, he said, would cost more than N$31 million.

Furthermore, he said, the ministry has plans to upgrade eight quarantine facilities – Omutambo-Gwomawe, Okongo, Oshivelo, Mangetti, Mpungu, Thomas Siyave, Kopano and Katima Mulilo – to improve animal health and marketing.

All this would require a budget of more than N$87 million, yet the government put in just about N$25 million.


Kelvin Chiringa

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