Windhoek-A leader of the community police in the OkondjaÞu area in the Okakarara Constituency, Mbajoroka Kambausuka, is sternly appealing to those harbouring suspected cattle rustlers to hand them over to the police.
Kambausuka made this appeal last Thursday on Omurari FM when he also informed and invited the community to a meeting on the day to look into the issue of cattle entrapping and slaughtering in the bush that lately have assumed increased proportions. He says in the latest cases of stock theft in the area there are parents and/or relatives of suspected cattle thieves who are harbouring them. Lately pictures have been circulating on social media of unsightly abattoirs in the bush in the district of OkondjaÞu settlement, between OkondjaÞu and Okonjainja village. As a result the community police have rounded up an unspecified number of suspects who have since been released in the custody of their parents until they appear in the traditional court. But other suspects are still at large. Hence the appeal.
Kambausuka is also seriously signalling to especially the youth engaged in cattle rustling that no more shall the community, particularly the community police, tolerate their criminal acts. Using the Otjiherero term “kakunondendu”, literally meaning everyone is a man, he adds every homestead has got a bull and onwards bulls and men would be facing one another. Meaning as much as there are manly stock thieves there are also manly community members, and within the ranks of the community policing, and that the battle lines have now been drawn with iron sharpening iron. He says for a long time now since the 1990s cattle theft in the area had declined and become isolated due to the community stock theft unit, Epango. Especially its determination and heavy-handedness, which put it at loggerheads with the law. But since 2014 stock theft has been rearing its ugly head increasingly, and that is why the community, through the community police, have once again upped their game.
Meanwhile, last Thursday’s meeting has been described as fruitful with the community now united against stock theft and the suspects who have already been apprehended giving their full cooperation, especially in tracing those still on the run.
The community police prefer that the latest suspects be tried by traditional court for lack of confidence in public prosecution. According to the community police, most stock theft cases are not concluded in a “reasonable time and there’s no reward for the loss of stock”. Through community initiatives, led by their local stock theft unit, suspects were apprehended when the number plate of the car they used was discovered on the scene. Through NaTIS the owner of the car was identified.
The cattle involved in the latest incident have been given as four but the constituency councillor, VeÞatuhe Kanÿorozu, says there could be more. He says last December there were similar incidents at Omatjatjeva, where and when up to 10 cattle were slaughtered in the bush. The meat was then dried into biltong, the Otjiherero traditional way for urban marketing. Suspects were apprehended and the case was being investigated by the police only for another incident to resurface at Okondjatu and Okonjainja recently.
“This a very terrible incident. We have never experienced an incident of this nature in the past. Even though cattle theft is very high in our constituency, this type of rustler activity is the first of its kind. The issue of poverty and unemployment is one of the push factors for the people to behave in that way and to resort to rustling activities,” laments the councillor.
He adds that in the past young people used to harvest wood for charcoal export to South Africa as a means of income. But since harvesting rights have been suspended by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, cattle theft has skyrocketed.
Kandorozu says the police have beefed up community policing in all the districts by establishing community police units known as Epango as part of unitary policing activities. “Thus the community has taken up the ownership of providing security services. Our office has taken up the issue with the Police Regional Commissioner, Mr Tjiveze. We are planning to have stakeholders’ engagement so we can see how we can institute collaboration and contain those activities,” says Kanÿorozu.
The suspects in the latest case at OkondjaÞu are currently under parental custody. To improve vigilance in combatting stock theft the police will onwards be conducting regular visits on a round robin basis and community police representatives will be stationed in each village. Police will also soon start with patrols to identify people who do not have birth documents and apprehend them as many of the suspects are from Angola with no ID and birth certificates.