Since yesterday, communal farmers from the Otjombinÿe Constituency in the Omaheke Region have been converging on the capital of the Cattle Country, Gobabis, to continue with their civic action against the granting of bail to suspected cattle rustlers, the hearing thereof started yesterday and continues today.
One can no longer speak of stock theft in most communal areas but the plundering of animals, with bush abattoirs rife all over the country. The rustled animals are slaughtered on the spot and the meat transported and sold either locally in any communal areas for kapanas or exported to other destinations in the country.
Reports emanating from the Okakarara Constituency towards the end of last year indicated the existence of an animal looting syndicate with animals being entrapped and slaughtered at one of the mushrooming bush abattoirs.
One area with an ongoing court case of stock theft, with cattle having been smuggled into Namibia from Botswana, is the Otjombinÿe Constituency. Constituency councillor, Katjanaa Kaurivi, says the smuggling of cattle from Botswana into Namibia is not the only problem of stock theft they have been dealing with but internal stock theft also, which has become a big problem with inhabitants of the constituency engaged in the crime.
The constituency, he says, seems to have become a safe haven for former cattle herders, no longer in the employ of inhabitant farmers who initially brought them to the area, usually from all over the country to look after their animals. Now independent economic migrants in the constituency, they have established own village in the settlement of the constituency of Talismanus, which is a no-go zone and thus a safe haven for stolen animals.
A pursuit of cattle rustlers a month or two ago by the Otjombinÿe community stock theft unit and operation, which found two cattle tied to trees in the veld between the villages of Otjozombata and Okomukaru, led to the discovery of 43 more cattle rounded up in camps in this safe haven on the outskirts of the settlement of Talismanus. The ownership of 20 plus cattle was identifiable while the identification marks of about 10 cattle were difficult to discern, as the marks are suspected to have been tampered with while seven of the cattle could not be identified.
Seven people were arrested, some linked to three previous cases of stock theft. Some suspects did not have valid residency permits and were deported with the rest in police custody where they have been applying for bail.
Kaurivi says they are against the suspects being awarded bail because of their threatening behaviour. They also fear that the suspects would interfere with evidence, possibly killing the animals they are suspected of stealing, thereby, destroying the evidence. Hence, the community has taken a keen interest in the court case and has been present at each hearing to lobby against bail for the suspects, as was the case against this week when the bail application hearing resumed in the Gobabis Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
Councillor Kaurivi says all along the community has been in a slumber with regard to stock theft with suspects, in most cases, going scot-free but they have now decided to be vigilant. Especially given the laxity of the locally stationed police officers in the past, who the community suspect of colluding with the criminals. However, with the community now vigilant, and with fresh police reinforcement dispatched from Gobabis to the constituency, the game of stock theft combatting seems to have gone a gear up.