Windhoek – President Hage Geingob’s recent hint at the removal of the red line has unleashed a heated debate.
Speaking on an NBC programme, the president said after 28 years of independence the red line still divides Namibians. People from all walks of life have joined the discussion about the pros and cons of such a step on various platforms with almost all of them warning about the devastating effect the removal of the red line can have if not done properly. The recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement could facilitate Namibia’s beef exports to the rest of the continent, but the issue of the red line in the northern part of the country must be resolved.
Stakeholders in the northwest farming areas have made it clear that they will not support the erection of a border fence between Namibia and Angola for the removal of the infamous red line. Northern communal farmers say their main need is not to export beef to international markets, but rather grazing opportunities within the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs). Thus, once the Angolan border is closed, it will leave them without grazing opportunities, while all the farms south of the red line are fenced off, which will make it difficult for them. Over 30,000 head of cattle belonging to Namibians are said to be grazing in Angola and it is also believed that about 2,800 Namibians either own homesteads or farm in communal areas in the neighbouring country, while others cross the border with their livestock every morning for grazing and return to Namibia in the evening.
Most role players indicate that removing the red line could lead to price depressions affecting production levels thus resulting in a situation where farmers with Agribank and commercial banks loans struggle to pay back their loans because of reduced income. Experts agree about two scenarios: One is to move the red line to the border between Namibia and Angola, with very strict veterinary controls; while the other is for Angola to obtain the same veterinary status as Namibia.
They point out that the latter is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future, so the only option currently is to move the fence to the border between Namibia and Angola, and to introduce very strict veterinary controls.
Regions covered by the cordon fence including parts of Oshikoto and Kunene as well as the whole of the Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana, Kavango and Caprivi.
More than half of the country’s 2.8 million cattle are in the northern communal areas. It costs the government more than N$7 million a year to inoculate livestock north of the fence free of charge. A recent study completed by the World Organisation for Animal Health found that erecting a fence of about 240km between Namibia and Angola, and doing away with the red line, would be the most viable option for the future of Namibia’s livestock industry.
The Namibia National Farmers Union president, Jackson Emvula, says the majority of farmers in the NCAs depend on Angola for grazing.