WINDHOEK - Due to stock theft that has taken on plundering proportions, there is a tense situation in the Omaheke Region with cattle rustlers and farmworkers arming up against one another resembling the old Wild West seen in cowboy movies.
“In some instances there is cooperation between cattle rustlers and farmworkers. In some farms police testifies to heavy skirmishes between cattle rustlers and farmworkers because probably once whites realise incidences of stock theft, they turn against farmworkers. Thus, to protect their jobs, farmworkers are now up in arms against cattle rustlers to be able to prove to their bosses that they are not the ones responsible but cattle rustlers they may have apprehended,” says Aminuis Constituency Councillor, Peter Kazongominja. This is not the only danger but visiting someone’s farm these days is a matter of life and death, because due to the likelihood of running into the ambush of cattle rustlers comfortably camped on the farm. Certainly those going to the extent of camping on a farm, which is not theirs, must somehow be well armed and ready for anything.
Kazongominja, says stock theft is no longer a matter of stealing but plundering with cattle rustlers comfortably camping for days inside any targeted farm or village within the communal area, equipped with all modern equipment imaginable to carry out their plundering, thereafter the slaughtered animals are loaded onto pick-ups which equally enters the farm at ease. Cattle rustling being big business now, this is something that rustlers would stop or forego easily. Albeit Kazongominja, this insecure situation applies as much in commercial areas as in communal areas thus now rendering the Omaheke Region explosive and insecure. The cause is unemployment with the unemployed making cattle rustling their employment and thus their source of income. With the festive season approaching, for the unemployed this is the only way they can take something home to their families and enjoy the festive season.
The chairperson of the Omaheke Regional Council recently convened a meeting with the region’s councillors, the police and other stakeholders such as farmers and traditional leaders, where they shared this information and the rising concern with the looting of farms, especially in the Kalahari Constituency of the region, informs Kazongominja. However, this meeting, hosted at the regional headquarters of the Omeheke police in Gobabis, agreed on a much bigger meeting of all stakeholders to thoroughly look into the problem and probably establish a standing committee of stakeholders that will facilitate the free flow of information on stock theft among stakeholders, thereby hopefully enhancing efforts at apprehending the suspects and combating stock theft.
Kazongominja says the way in which stock theft is currently taking place in the region, be it on commercial or communal farmlands, clearly points to a syndicate that is on top of its game. Hence the need for stakeholders to equally up their game through a permanent structure. He says there is an indication that the permits used to transport the stolen animals are traceable to communal areas. Even meat of the illegally slaughtered animals passes though police roadblocks with ease, raising the suspicion of connivance between some members of the police and cattle rustlers.
Police spokesperson, Deputy Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi, says stock theft in Omaheke is indeed a serious problem because of the fact that cattle husbandry is the main economic activity in the region. With thieves targeting especially farms of absentee owners who stay away from their farms for long spell, thus making it easy for thieves to loot their farms with the connivance of farmworkers who are bribed into deals. No lives may as yet been lost but he says the matter is a serious one and should not be taken lightly less it gets out of hand. He says cases brought to his attention, he usually refer them to regional commanders. Currently, he himself is seized with a case of complaint of threats against complainants who have been threatened with axes by suspected cattle thieves after they were reported to the police for suspected cattle theft in the village of Ovinjuru in the Epukiro Constituency.