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Home / Iithete: The red line must fall … ‘Namibia not here to feed Europe, America’

Iithete: The red line must fall … ‘Namibia not here to feed Europe, America’

2023-11-23  Edward Mumbuu

Iithete: The red line must fall … ‘Namibia not here to feed Europe, America’

Swapo lawmaker Natangwe Iithete minced no words yesterday when saying the notorious veterinary cordon fence (VCF) must be removed, equating it to a colonial structure oppressing most Namibians.

“We want that fence to go away. When I speak here, I speak on behalf of most Namibians…We don’t want to be feeding Europeans and Americans. Namibia is not here to feed Europe. Namibia is not here to feed Americans,” he said, seemingly taking a jibe at the red line’s advocates who want to protect lucrative beef markets.

He feels that for as long as the VCF, or red line as it is notoriously known, remains intact, economic emancipation for Namibia remains a pipedream.

“We have gained political independence, but we have not gained economic independence. We can’t wait for another 30 years or more to gain economic independence,” Iithete said.

He made these observations during a public hearing by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics and Public Administration, and representatives from the agriculture ministry and the Meat Board of Namibia.

Iithete chairs the committee.

The public consultation emanated from a petition by the Lisha Empowerment and Development organisation, which calls for the need to revive the livestock market in Namibia’s Northern Communal Areas (NCAs).

“I want to see this challenge resolved. Let’s come up with policies to resolve this issue. It’s going to be painful, but we must do it. If this is going to cost us [dearly], let it cost us today. We cannot continue to have the northerners blocked out of the market,” Iithete stressed.

The red line, or VCF, is a border that separates northern Namibia from the south.

Some see it as an animal disease control mechanism.

For others, it is an oppressive political and colonial tool that deprives Namibians north of it of equal economic and social opportunities.

The NCAs do not have access to the lucrative beef markets in the European Union, which is currently reserved for those south of the red line.

“We should remove that fence, and see if we will die. We will not die. We will find other markets,” a clearly agitated Iithete fumed.

The NCAs cover parts of the Kunene, Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Kavango West, Kavango East, and Zambezi regions.

There are an estimated 1.5 million cattle in the NCAs.

Despite the government spending N$600 million to support the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco) and abattoirs in the north over the past three years, only N$32 million ended up in the pockets of those north of the red line.

The amount is acknowledged in a damning forensic report into Meatco’s affairs by Ombu Capital, a private equity firm owned by former Standard Bank CEO Vetumbuavi Mungunda.



While acknowledging the plight of Namibians north of the VCF, Dr Albertina Shilongo, who heads the Directorate of Veterinary Services under the ministry of agriculture, said the government has made several attempts to resolve their challenges.

She said at the heart of addressing the red line question was a recommendation made to Cabinet a few years ago to erect a fence between Namibia and Angola to prevent unvaccinated animals from that country from crossing into Namibia.

However, farmers along the Namibian-Angolan border refused the fence’s erection, as they graze their livestock in that country during drought periods.

“When the animals return [from Angola], we experience sporadic outbreaks of diseases,” Shilongo said.

Pointing to some interventions, she added that the ministry has identified several markets for NCA beef, including in Qatar, Angola, the DRC and Ghana.

“Despite these achievements, the ministry is aware that the NCA livestock sector is still experiencing some challenges due to non-operational abattoirs and quarantine facilities,” the veterinarian added.

The Oshakati abattoir is currently not operational due to an ongoing legal battle between the former operator and government, while the ones in Eenhana, Rundu and Katima Mulilo are punching below their weight in terms of daily slaughters.

The Katima Mulilo abattoir has a slaughter capacity of 110 cattle per day, Rundu between 80 and 120, Oshakati 220, while Eenhana and Outapi both have a daily slaughter capacity of 25 cattle.

Both the Outapi and Eenhana abattoirs are operated by the Namibia National Liberation Veterans Association.

What is more, a meat-processing plant is nearly 90% complete in Ongwediva to further cement and supplement government’s efforts, she noted.

It is expected that the Eenhana, Outapi and Oshakati abattoirs will feed the processing plant at Ongwediva.

“With regards to Kunene, the ministry is in the process of awarding a tender to upgrade the Opuwo slaughterhouse to an abattoir in order to address the issue of a lack of market by farmers in the region,” Shilongo stated.

The ministry, she hastened to add, is also busy renovating quarantine facilities, constructing feedlots, auction kraals and artificial insemination centres in the Zambezi, Kavango East, Kavango West, Ohangwena, Oshana, Oshikoto, Omusati and Kunene regions.  

Still, Iithete was not impressed.


Red line politics

On the day, Goliath Tujendapi of the Meat Board of Namibia zeroed in on the politics around the red line.

He hinted at politicians using the emotive red line issue to advance their own interests.

“Many politicians have also played a role in politicising this fence for their political gains. We must tell each other frankly. I think the time has come for us to decide what is in the best interests of the country. Is it for my political gain or is it what the people I’m representing [need],” asked Tujendapi rhetorically.

He then proffered solutions.

“The very first thing that I should have done as agriculture minister is to try and introduce a different health status in the NCAs. Everything that is blocking the movement of products in the NCAs is the health status attached to that product,” Tujendapi proposed.

Advancing his argument, he said: “Namibia is a signatory to many treaties. To declare an area foot and mouth disease-free is not in the hands of the ministry of agriculture, neither is it in the hands of Parliament or the President. To declare that area FMD-free is in the hands of the World Organisation for Animal Health, to which Namibia is a signatory.”

He said for a country to be declared FMD-free, it must meet seven requirements.

“Namibia has passed the six requirements. We’ve struggled for the past 31 years to answer one question from the World Organisation for Animal Health [which is] ‘how do you [Namibia] prevent yourself from infections from your neighbouring countries?’ That’s the fundamental answer they wanted. If you can give concrete answers to that question, then we can, even tomorrow, free that area [NCAs],” he stressed.


2023-11-23  Edward Mumbuu

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