By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Thieves have stolen two cows that former president Dr Sam Nujoma gave to the Uukwangali community as a gift in what local residents say is a growing cattle-rustling racket between Angola and Namibia. Dr Nujoma gave several cattle to the Kwangali people as a gesture of thanks for the hospitality they showed King Iipumbu ya Shilongo during his exile in the Kavango. Local residents report that cattle theft on the Namibia-Angola border has become a serious problem, with many residents desperately running around searching for their stolen animals. The Nkurenkuru area is particularly hard hit, with some families having lost seven and others even up to 10 head of livestock. Suspicion has fallen on a group of Angolans who regularly come to Nkurenkuru from Menongue claiming they are official representatives of the Angolan government sent to buy cattle in Namibia. The Angolan government, they say, is supposedly buying cattle in Namibia to distribute to returning internally displaced persons in Angola. Fruitless attempts were made over several weeks to confirm whether or not the Angolan authorities officially sanctioned these cattle-buying missions. Neither the Angolan Embassy in Windhoek nor the Angolan Consul-General Judith da Costa in Rundu is able to throw any light on the matter. The head of the Angolan “delegation” is now said to be limping after receiving a vicious kick from one of his unruly Namibian purchasers – no doubt reluctant to relocate north of the border. The suspicion among local residents is that the Angolans are buying stolen cattle, which they then drive across the border at illegal crossing points at night, especially between the months of August and September when the water level in the Kavango River is low. There are officially designated points for crossing into Angola at Nkurenkuru, Katwitwi and other places, but the rustlers steer clear of these crossing-points. According to one source, who wished to remain anonymous, Namibians steal the animals and then sell them to the Angolans. “This year, many cattle have been stolen. People are desperate; they are looking for their cattle,” he said. This same source says one local teacher’s cattle were found and identified in Menongue. Cattle are an important part of the local economy in the Kavango. People use the oxen for cultivation and rely on milk from the cows for nutrition. They are also an important asset that can be sold whenever cash is needed; for example, for children’s school fees or to pay fines imposed by traditional courts. People are also unhappy because the Namibian Police have so far been unhelpful when it comes to recovering their cattle. One source says police at Kahenge first said they could not search for stolen cattle because they had no vehicle. The second excuse they used was that they could not search for cattle left to graze on their own, or left wandering around, saying they would only search for cattle stolen from a kraal. When New Era made an inquiry, police at Kahenge even tried to deny that anyone had reported their cattle stolen, even though people confirmed to the newspaper that they had reported such cattle thefts at the police station.
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