The Stock-Theft Curse

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro Encouraging signs are coming from the constituencies of Epukiro and Otjinene in the Omaheke Region. In what may represent the turning over of a new leaf in the new year as far as stock theft is concerned, the Police, push-driven by a renewed and spirited campaign against stock theft by these farming communities, apprehended six suspected cattle rustlers just after Christmas. The move by the communities unearthed what may be a syndicate that has been operating in these constituencies stretching as far as the rural areas of Okondjatu and Okakarara in the Okakarara constituency in the Otjozondjupa Region. The seemingly re-born conscientiousness and willingness of the Police, if one can put much hope in its sustainability, comes as a great relief to the farming communities who hardly go through a day without missing an animal or animals from their stock. In fact stock theft has reached such proportions that one no longer talks of stealing but plundering. With herds roaming the unfenced communal no-man’s lands, they become easy prey to stock theft syndicates. They are loaded en masse onto trucks. The most disturbing and saddening aspect of the suspected syndicated stock theft is that the herd so plundered may in all probability be from one kraal. As a result homesteads, especially of the infirm and elderly are threatened with closures. Seven cattle belonging to one farmer in the Otjinene constituency were towards the close of last year identified at a permit in Otjinene. This is only the tip of the iceberg. This and other incidents propelled farmers in the two constituencies to convene a stock-theft meeting, which was held in the village of Otjiwarongo in the Epukiro constituency on 27 December last year. The fact that the meeting took place just after Christmas when the rest of the country may have been lavishing in the goodies of the festive period, speaks volumes of the gravity of stock theft and the concern with which the affected communities view it. Most heartening is that the communities are prepared to dig deep in their own pockets to find the scourge, contributing N$26 000 on the spot at this meeting to help the newly-created 15-member community stock theft committee. Not only that but some farmers also availed their vehicles to help the committee in doing patrols. The meeting recommended, among others, that the Epukiro Constituency Councillor, Brave Tjizera, takes up the sluggish response of the Police to reported stock theft cases, as the communities generally perceive, with the relevant authorities. By Tjizera’s own account he has already taken up this matter with the “Chief of the Police” . The response was that the community was not without blemish for its attitude towards the Police, perceived to be an “Owambo” Police. However, what is important now is that a new beginning seemed to be made and all involved, especially the community and the Police, need to build on this beginning. Vibes coming from the areas point to a constructive engagement and collaboration between the stock theft committee and the Police, a joint venture that led to the recent apprehension of the six suspected syndicates. If the latest initiative is anything to go by, this seems to be at last the beginning of the closing of the net on the syndicates, and stock theft in general. Hitherto the community seems to have lost every trust in the Police but lately there has been nothing else but praise for the Police for not only reacting quickly to suspect stock theft cases but for their no non-sense approach to suspects. However this is only the beginning. Surely, both the Police and the community cannot be the ones to undo this great achievement. More than anything, one hopes this success is not just another New Year fluke. One would want to believe this a new-found relationship of no return between the Police and these farming communities and that the road to an effective and sustained combating of stock theft has been paved. But only the Police and the community can guarantee its ultimate success.