Farmer threatens to shoot FMD veterinary officials

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Windhoek

A Kunene farmer was arrested over the weekend after allegedly threatening to shoot veterinary officials, who are in the area to help control the spread of mouth-and-mouth disease currently wreaking havoc in northern parts of the country.

Tsisuta Viongeka was apparently angered after the government officials killed and burned up his bull as a measure to control the deadly animal disease.

The animal was destroyed after Viongeka allegedly cut the Veterinary Cordon Fence at Makalani to let his bull through the surveillance fence between northern Kunene and southern Kunene areas.

Things turned ugly after all in-contact animals were tranferred to the nearby quarantine area, and Viongeka came looking for officials yesterday morning with a loaded gun, threatening to shoot them on sight.

The police were notified and arrested Viongeka immediately without any injuries to the officials.

A criminal case has been opened with the Kamanjab police and the accused is expected to appear in court today.

Meanwhile, government will today declare foot-and-mouth disease the number one enemy of the multi-billion livestock industry when Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) John Mutorwa officially launches the biggest vaccine campaign against FMD in more than 40 years in the Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions.

Half-a-million doses of FMD vaccine from the Botswana Vaccine Institute landed in Windhoek on Friday evening and were immediately transported to the affected areas where a full-blown war is raging against the fast-spreading disease.

Some 1.2 million doses of the vaccine will eventually be needed to vaccinate all cattle in the Northern Communal Areas (NCA), as prescribed by Cabinet’s N$208 million six-point plan last week to eradicate the most feared animal disease in southern Africa.

Yesterday, acting director of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) Dr John Shoopala confirmed that a motorist is facing charges after he refused to step out of his car for the compulsory foot dip at the Oshivelo control point.

More details about the incident and the FMD situation on the ground is expected on Wednesday when Mutorwa debriefs all stakeholders and role players in the meat industry about the latest development after he paid a visit to both affected regions as well as various control points and road blocks.

“So grave is the situation that the ministry will criminally charge any official who is not performing his or her duties at road blocks in accordance with the Animal Health Act,” Mutorwa told this newspaper before he departed for the north yesterday.

Shoopala confirmed fears that the disease has not been contained, saying FMD as the most contagious animal disease is not yet under control in the affected areas due to the free-roaming nature of communal cattle. “This already dangerous situation is compounded when farmers cut fences to give their cattle access to greener pastures, as was demonstrated by the incident over the weekend,” he said.

“We certainly have our work cut out for us, and it will require the diligence and co-operation of each and every farmer, government official and role layers in the industry to halt FMD.”

“But we are confident that as a united front we will halt the disease in the industry and the Namibian economy’s interest.”

Paul Strydom, general manager of the Meat Board, as coordinator of the entire livestock industry, says of deep concern is the time it will take to restore Namibia’s status and pride as an FMD-free country. “It takes some six months for South African authorities to clear up a single outbreak of FMD, as we have encountered in Kavango East and Zambezi regions. The scale of the current outbreak will set our industry back by some two years and that will have serious financial implications, which are still to be determined,” he laments.

More than N$51 million will be made available in the next two years to erect animal control fences between Namibia and Angola and eventually also Botswana.

The lack of such control fences has been the biggest bone of contention in Namibia’s 50-year long battle against FMD and Cabinet has now made it clear that erecting such fences is the only lasting solution to eradicate the disease.

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