By Kuvee Kangueehi
A woman farming in the Karibib area, Pevangua Kariko, stands accused of masterminding a well-marshalled theft syndicate in which cattle belonging to stock farmers in the Ovitoto area were butchered and the carcasses sold at premium prices to residents of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay
Kariko and four other male suspects were arrested on Sunday afternoon at Okahandja after they were caught red-handed with three stolen carcasses.
The five made a brief appearance before the Okahandja Magistrate’s Court on Monday morning. They were denied bail and are still in custody.
According to Chief Vipuira Kapuuo of the Ovitoto area, residents of Ovitoto have been seeing Kariko over the past three months driving in and out of
Ovitoto in a white Isuzu bakkie with Swakopmund registration numbers but they never suspected her of any misdemeanour because of her being a woman.
They, however, became curious about her frequent visits because she was not known in the area neither was she known to have any relatives residing in the community.
Last week Saturday Kariko was spotted by a group of men from the village who were on the lookout for possible cattle thieves entering Ovitoto again. She spent about an hour in the area before she returned to Okahandja.
Kapuuo said Kariko came back again in the afternoon and after two hours she left the area. Kapuuo said during the second trip on the same day, she is believed to have been transporting three carcasses of stolen cattle to Okahandja.
The chief said on the Saturday Kariko passed through a makeshift roadblock set up by the community. Those manning the makeshift roadblock did not search her vehicle because of her being a woman.
However, on Sunday Kariko was not so lucky after driving in and out of Ovitoto again. The men at the makeshift roadblock observed that her bakkie which had tinted windows had its rear slumped, an indication that it could have been carrying heavy goods.
The men stopped the bakkie and inside were three carcasses and four men hiding at the back.
Kapuuo said they suspect that the four men are from the Vyfrand squatter camp near Okahandja and that they have been operating the field butcheries because they know the Ovitoto communal area very well.
After arresting the five suspects, the villagers discovered more hides of stolen cattle in Okahandja and also learnt that Kariko runs a small butchery, which caters for residents at the coast.
Kapuuo said they suspect that Kariko must have picked up the four men every time she came to Ovitoto and dropped them in the bush to slaughter cattle. The men would then use mobile phones to call her to come and pick up the carcasses.
The chief said the Ovitoto community was shocked that a woman has been running the operation but later learnt that she has another pending case of car theft.
Kariko, who is originally from Aminuis, allegedly stole a government vehicle and hid it at her farm before setting it alight when the police entered her farm.
Her husband is currently in jail after he was sentenced for theft two years ago.
The Ovitoto community on Monday handed a petition to the magistrate at Okahandja requesting the court not to grant bail to the five suspects.
In the petition, the community said the investigation is incomplete as over 25 cattle are still reported missing and more field butcheries are being discovered.
Kariko and the four accused are expected to appear in court in August.