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Zambezi residents stampede for free buffalo meat

2018-11-09  Aron Mushaukwa

Zambezi residents stampede for free buffalo meat

KABULABULA - Hordes of government officials sneaked out of their offices at Katima Mulilo and joined the multitudes of people who headed to Kabulabula where some of the people individually grabbed dozens of the over 400 buffaloes that died in a mass drowning while escaping from a pride of lions.

When word of mouth reached Katima Mulilo on Wednesday, school teachers, police officers, government officials and others drove to Kabulabula in the area of Mbalasinte in Kabbe South where there was a free-for-all as people filled their bakkies, small trucks and other vehicles with buffalo meat and carcasses.

Word reached Katima Mulilo town around 11h00 that some government officials, including senior officials, and others from private institutions, left their work unattended without even putting in leave and they headed for Kabulabula about two hours’ drive from Katima Mulilo, which includes an hour-and-a-half drive on bumpy roads to have a share of free buffalo which they were allowed to cart away.

Members of the police and officials from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism were among the people that participated in the free-for-all and no one cared about maintaining law and order.

More than 400 buffaloes believed to have been chased by lions drowned in the Chobe River in northern Botswana on Tuesday night and the initial investigation by authorities in Namibia and Botswana “suggest that an exceptionally large buffalo herd was grazing in Namibia when they stampeded into the Chobe River” over steep river banks resulting in the mass drowning that has become a normal occurrence.

It is understood that the carcasses were discovered by fishermen early on Wednesday morning who alerted environment and tourism authorities. Community members who were first to arrive on the scene came from nearby villages in the areas of Ivilivinzi, Mbalasinte and Kasika, and when they were given the go-ahead they were the first ones to start harvesting the free meat and people did not wait for the carcasses to be declared fit for consumption as they went into a frenzy. 
Speaking to New Era the chief control warden in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Morgan Saisai, stated that the buffaloes were grazing on the Botswana side on Tuesday night when they stampeded into the Chobe River, after reportedly being chased by a pride of 12 lions.

“The area where the buffaloes stampeded has a steep ascent and after the buffaloes fell into the river they were unable to climb the steep bank and they stampeded and drowned,” said Saisai.

Though it was reported that about 400 buffaloes had drowned, when New Era arrived on the scene on Wednesday afternoon, most of the carcasses from the Namibian side had already been loaded in  vehicles, and community members were now crossing using their dugout canoes and boats to the Botswana side which had most of the carcasses that were floating in the river.   

Even though the law dictates one needs a permit to possess game meat, Saisai explained this could not be done because of the sheer high number of drowned buffaloes and people were allowed to benefit from this freak environmental phenomenon and transport the meat without any permit. He however warned that the meat should not be sold but by yesterday sources said some villagers at Kabulabula were selling entire buffalo quarters for only N$100 which is a massive give-away for the delicacy.

“The authorisation was given to say they strictly use for own use. If someone took it as an opportunity ‘that I will stock my butchery and sell or strip the meat and sell later’, that one will render someone in a problem. The fact is that you don’t have a game dealer’s licence,” cautioned Saisai.

Community members were not willing to speak to the media as most of them were busy grabbing carcasses for themselves and some individuals grabbed as many as eight to ten carcasses. The vice-chairperson of Kabulabula conservancy Leonard Machili had mixed feelings. He stated that even though the community benefited it was a loss to the conservancy. 

“It was a great loss as this is our source of income as conservancy members. I observed that most  of the female buffaloes were pregnant which means we lost even the future generation, ” said Machili. Machili was also disappointed that most of those who benefitted were coming from outside the conservancy areas. “The situation was beyond control as people were a lot, but those with vehicles who drove from Katima and other areas are the ones who benefited a lot, as some were just tying them with ropes and pulling  the carcases with their vehicles from the water,” he said.    

One source also suggested the next time there is a mass drowning people should not be allowed to take more than one carcass as the meat should also benefit the khutas, school hostels, trial-awaiting prisoners, the disabled and even elderly citizens and that the police and environment officials should be involved in ensuring greedy individuals do not take the lion’s share.

2018-11-09  Aron Mushaukwa

Tags: Zambezi
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