Veterinary Act angers Unam academics

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By Albertina Nakale

WINDHOEK– The Namibian Veterinary Council has dismissed claims by some academics at the University of Namibia (Unam) that the repealed Act of 2013 is not inclusive of previously disadvantaged groups who want to become vets.

Unam academics feel the repealed Act disadvantages blacks in terms of registration of persons practising in veterinary and veterinary para-professions (vets) in the country.

Currently Namibia has about 131 vets, of whom 63 are state vets, 51 are private and 17 practise in industry.

Namibia has for the first time this year introduced a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVS) for which 30 students have enrolled at Unam.

Aggrieved academics said the Act which was repealed last year following the outdated Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Proclamation of 1984 has sections which are “discriminatory when it comes to blacks” who wish to practice as veterinarians.

They say the new Act was revised by the same people who servred on the council before independence and therefore they made sure that part of the regulations have sections that prohibit “black people” from practising as private vets.

Further, they say for one to qualify for registration as a veterinarian in Namibia, one must be listed under certain faculties which has been inspected and audited as recommended by the Minister in terms of section 24 (1) of the Act. 

“The council that repealed the Act before the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, could sign it last year made sure that it is only the University of Pretoria in South Africa that is recognised. If you studied at other universities in Africa or the world at large, then you are not recognised. This is a way of blocking black people from practising privately because most whites go and study in Pretoria. Where will these students we are busy training go?” fumed a professor who requested anonimity.

However, Namibian Veterinary Council Registrar Dr Anna Marais who has been at the helm of the council since 2004 and was part of the team that repealed the old proclamation has denied they register people according to race or colour.

“We don’t register persons according to their race or colour. We only look at qualifications. I was appointed by the Minister in 2004 and when I came I found an old proclamation used since 1984. There is no discrimination in the old proclamation,” Marais explained.

People come with different qualifications from different universities hence council is obliged to evaluate their qualifications to see if they are sufficient for Namibian standards, she stated.

“Vets don’t only treat sick animals but also do public health. We have to ensure all food derived from animals is safe to eat. We have to assure the Namibian nation that the food they consume from animals is safe. Namibia is proud we don’t allow hormones or growth promoters. We don’t allow them because they are bad for people who eat that kind of meat. That is why Namibian meat is sought by other countries including the European Union (EU) and South African markets,” she maintained.

If the EU wants to come and buy meat, then they have to audit Namibia first.

“They look at our farms, vets and abattoirs. They come to the council and ask how vets are registered. That is why we have an Act that specifies who can be registered as a vet. We don’t allow just anybody to set up a practice without meeting set standards,” she explained.

She said the Act is clear that to be registered one must have studied at least minimum subjects listed in the regulations.

Marais explained that if anyone want to be registered, the council is guided by the Act to go and audit the university they studied at or one has to sit for a board exam set up by the council.

“Since the Act came into effect, the council has audited the University of Pretoria – that is why if someone studied there, then we automatically register them. We have approached other universities for auditing in the region but we can’t just show up unvited,” she clarified.

Moreover, she said Namibia is a signatory of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) which has set standards called Competencies of Graduating Veterinarians to Assure National Veterinary Services of Quality.

Regarding Unam students studying for the new BVS degree, she explained the council is working closely with Unam to ensure they plan their courses in accordance with the OIE requirements.

“By the time the students graduate, we register them without having to sit for a board exam. One can also register with us, provided you pass another country’s board exam that Namibia recognises,” stated Marais.

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