No More Going Back

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Kae on Friday

Kae Matundu Tjiparuro

WHO is fooling who? I am sure this must be a popular joke passing around these days in the exclusive hideouts of commercial or white if you like, cattle buyers, making a mockery of the recent decision by communal farmers in the Omaheke region not to sell their livestock at permits to rebuff the move by the buyers not to buy their animals through auctions.

I am sure buyers must be thinking that these communal farmers, ever seemingly feeding from their hands, are only calling the bluff and sooner or later they would run back to these very buyers. One would shrug at what adjectives may be flying around among these buyers at this decision by the communal farmers once again to show that buyers have never been and are never going to be serious with communal livestock breeders.

Exactly therein lies the challenge that the communal farmers must meet head-on. This decision is long overdue. It has been an open secret that communal farmers have at best been on the leashes of the buyers. Hardly a day passes without one hearing one or the other communal farmer(s) complaining about depressed animal prices. Many a time such depressions have not been due to market forces but have been deliberately manipulated by the buyers.

Thus the livestock selling-buying arena has long been the domain for self-enrichment by the buyers with the communal farmers usually at the sharp end of these daylight robbery schemes. Not that there was nothing the communal farmers could do about it. Strangely, they seem to have been going easy on this matter not realising the thousands if not millions of Namibian dollars they are annually losing through unilateral price manipulations and determination by buyers.

At last, the communal farmers, prompted by the buyers’ decision not to buy livestock anymore at auctions in the Omaheke communal areas, seem to have taken that bold step not to allow their continued rip-off by availing their animals to buyers through permits where the prices are pre-determined.
Communal farmers have never been privileged with information on what such determinations are based on.

I am sure the buyers have their own buying cartels to avoid them competing against one another when buying cattle and thereby unnecessarily forcing up animal prices to the detriment of the buyers. Needless to say, I am sure this is a reality communal farmers’ associations have been aware of and is aware of. Why they have not been able to do something about it only defies logic.

As they say, better late than never. The communal farmers have now taken the first step. I am sure this is a step that the buyers would scoff at as just a bluff. Whether this first step that the communal farmers and their various farmers’ associations have taken is a first step in a bold sustainable move and not a mere bluff as the buyers would want it to be, depends first and foremost on the masses of communal farmers in these areas. They are the ones who can determine whether the lead taken by their leaders through their various representative organisations, councillors and traditional leaders at Gobabis, can stand the test of time and bear fruit.

Livestock sale is the only source of income for most of the communal farmers. Thus the boycotting of auctions by buyers and the reciprocal suspension by communal farmers of livestock sale through permits may bring all kinds of difficulties to bear on the communal farmers pressed for hard cash, be it to send children back to school or to buy sugar or mealie-meal.

Therein lies the feasibility and sustainability of the decision by the communal farmers, or lack thereof. Ultimately, the feasibility and sustainability of this decision lies not so much in whether it is feasible and sustainable but on whether the farmers are resolute and determined enough to suffer in the short-term but in the long-term see an end to the robbery they have been suffering at the hands of the buyers who are supposed to be their partners in this endeavour.

Buyers have shown that they have little in common with communal livestock breeders and that the interests of the communal farmers do not come second or even third best to that of the buyers. While they are supposed to be smart partners, buyers seem to take communal livestock breeders as nothing more than a cheap source of livestock to be siphoned off and at the end of the day discarded if need be.

So the communal farmers do not have anybody but themselves, and of course fellow communal farmers in other areas, for solidarity. But most of all their resoluteness necessary to overcome all the difficulties in this endeavour may be the only potent weapon they have.

Not to forget their livestock and the right to decide when to sell or not and at what price. The communal farmers have reached a point of no return and there should be no looking back on this matter whatever odds may be against them.

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