In recent years, the request from the northern communities to the government regarding the removal of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF) (known as the redline) has gained momentum. Namibia witnessed a revolutionary approach undertaken by His Worship, Mayor of Windhoek, Job Shipululo Amupanda. His calibre to approach the court of law is attributed to his attempts of compelling the government to remove the redline which is regarded as a colonial symbol, for being economically discriminatory by disallowing northern livestock farmers equal access to the lucrative meat market, and a gesture of economic oppression against the northern communities, which existed since 1896.
His courage to approach the court has been met with mixed emotions. Many people applauded his effort, especially those who originate from the northern side of the redline. The removal of the redline will see the northern livestock farmers having access to lucrative meat markets. In addition, despite the fact that most individuals from the north of the redline own livestock, they are prohibited from transporting any meat product over to the south of the redline.
As a result, these northerners are forced to depend on the southern livestock farmers for all their meat consumption, hence, an enriching market. Northern farmers and residents are exposed to exorbitantly priced meat products when they could actually depend on their livestock for personal consumption. Therefore, the fall of the redline will further permit these individuals to carry their meat products over to the southern side for personal consumption which will save them a fortune.
On the other hand, Amupanda’s attempt brought panic mostly amongst the commercial farmers who are currently enjoying returns from the lucrative meat industry. Their panic is inspired by the fear of competition and losing their market share, the greediness to continue controlling the meat industry for their interest, and sadly, by the trepidation of economic uncertainties in the industry. On top of that, Amupanda’s efforts have been labelled and propagated, especially by those who are currently enjoying the “shopping spree” in the industry, as an attempt to put sand in their food so that no one would want to eat it.
For far too long the northern farmers, who are the biggest producers of cattle in Namibia (approximately north 65% and south 35%), have been excluded from the commercial meat markets. However, the debate remains whether the request to remove the redline is about putting sand in the food of the southern livestock farmers, or it is a request to ensure economic inclusivity for all farming communities in Namibia?
Economically, how do the stakeholders in the meat industry best explain the fact that most producers of cattle in Namibia are excluded from both local and international markets, left economically unserved and dwell in poverty? The Meat Corporation of Namibia (Act 1 of 2001), which is referred to as the Meatco Act, focuses on Section 1 and Section 3 (a) (c) and (d) of the Act. It is important to note that Section 1 failed to define the meaning or application of the term “Namibia” in that particular Act. Does the term “Namibia” incorporate only the livestock farmers on the southern side of the redline as it is currently being applied by Meatco, or should it incorporate all livestock farmers in Namibia as per its national borders?
Objectively viewed, the Act was passed in 2001 which was after the redline was established and after Namibia attained its independence.
On consideration of the above, it would be fair to conclude that the term Namibia cannot exist without incorporating both the southern and northern sides of the redline. Meatco was established through an Act of Parliament, to serve and stabilise the livestock industry in Namibia. However, the current model of Meatco’s operation has drastically failed to serve, promote and co-ordinate the interests of livestock producers on the northern side of Namibia which conflicts with section 3 (a) of the Meatco Act.
With the term “co-ordinate” being incorporated in section 3 (a), one would interpret the term “co-ordinate” to imply that it is in Meatco’s mandates to organise, unify, integrate, and synchronise the efforts of all livestock producers in Namibia. This should also include the provision of a unity of action plans intending to economically include all farmers and attain a common goal in the Namibian meat industry without any sort of favour or discrimination.
It is an open secret that livestock farming has been a fundamental enabler in the improvement of lives for many families residing south of the redline. However, for far too long, there have been acts of selfishness, greed and economic oppression toward the northern livestock farmers, especially from the livestock stakeholders south of the redline.
It is estimated that about 30 000 cattle are slaughtered south of the redline for the meat market north of the redline. This is an act of economic oppression that should be condemned. This egotistical act exemplifies how the southern livestock stakeholders lack empathy towards the northern communities in general, and towards their counterparts on the northern side in particular, for their self-enrichment. Such selfishness and sabotaging acts which are only meant to enrich a small group of elites at the expense of the masses should be denounced.
In comparison to the southern side of the redline, it is a well-known fact that poverty, and income inequality are negative economic inhabits of the northern regions. This remains an issue despite the fact that most households are in possession of livestock. On the issues of poverty and income inequality, one cannot rule out that, the inability to access the commercial meat market is amongst the contributing factors to these issues.
In conclusion, Meatco’s current south directed model of operation is illegal, unconstitutional, discriminatory and an act of economic oppression toward the northern communities. Furthermore, the southern based perception that the request to remove the redline is an attempt to put sand in their food is a naïve perception which lacks knowledge and understanding as to why Meatco exists.
Does this mean that the northerners do not deserve to have food on their plates, or how can one really justify this selfish perception? This perception lacks empathy and remorse towards the economically oppressed and suffering communities, as it further continues to illustrate the level of greediness within those that are currently enjoying the “Namibian Meaty Cake”, and their unwillingness to share the cake, to the extent that they shamelessly become propagandists against the suffering communities.
The removal of the redline will allow northern livestock farmers access to the meat market. This will enable them to generate income that will permit them to improve their livelihood.
Lastly, the call to remove the redline is aimed at achieving economic inclusivity for all farming communities, full realisation of this request will achieve a landscape of equality to the sharing of the “Namibian Meaty Cake”.