By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The high incidence of stock theft and illegal hunting in the country has led to the formation of a national body aimed at reducing this particular crime. The National Stock Theft Committee, a multi-sectoral body of affected organisations, including the government, farmers’ unions and professional hunters, was officially launched in Windhoek last week Thursday. Over the years, stock theft has become a severe headache for many commercial and communal farmers who make a living from small and livestock breeding. It turns out that livestock farmers in the Omaheke, Otjozondjupa and the Caprivi regions are the worst affected by this sort of crime and although severe sentences of 20 years in jail and more have been handed down by the courts, the number of cases reported to the Namibian police has not dropped. Although crime figures fluctuate at times, statistics from the police Stock Theft Unit show an increase of reported stock theft incidents since 2001. Ranking first on the list is the predominantly cattle region of Omaheke where reported cases rose from 333 in 2001 to 564 in 2005. It is followed by Otjozondjupa, which recorded 539 cases in 2001 compared to 471 in 2005. Also in the Caprivi, stock theft incidents shot up from only 26 in 2001 to 145 in 2005. It is against this background that concerned partners joined hands in setting up the National Stock Theft Committee last week. On June 1 this year, representatives of the Namibian Police, Directorate of Veterinary Services, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Namibian National Farmers’ Union (NNFU), Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), and the Namibian Professional Hunters’ Association (NAPHA) decided to establish the National Stock Theft Committee with the aim to reduce such crimes. Chairperson of the Committee and Deputy Commissioner of the Namibian Police, Gerson !Naweseb, informed New Era in an interview that the move is based on a consultative approach for the benefit of all those affected. “The main objective of this Committee is to create a formal and regular communication and information sharing forum and this Committee will communicate and address stock theft and illegal hunting issues regionally and nationally,” explained !Naweseb. Three months down the line, all the relevant stakeholders have signed the terms of reference setting out the aims and objectives of the new organisation, including the role players, composition and conduct of the administrative processes involved. The Committee will fall under the chairmanship of the Namibian Police. !Naweseb said through coordination and by encouraging all the 13 regions to come on board this latest initiative “we plan to have community-based organisations on stock theft problems to share their knowledge and tips with law enforcement agents. It’s more a goodwill Committee,” he added. Lately, regional police commanders have been receiving plenty of complaints from the communities about stock theft and illegal hunting, thus the need for establishing such a Committee in the first place. It is hoped that regional crime prevention forums can also be set up by communities in Grootfontein and Gobabis with the aim to improve communication and cooperation between the affected parties in an area. The Committee is appealing to the general public to cooperate with the police and relevant authorities by providing information and reporting issues that could ultimately lead to a reduction in crime.
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