What Happened That South Africa Is Now Backtracking On an Understanding?

Either the Namibian delegation that in March went to South Africa to negotiate less stringent export regulations for Namibian livestock and beef products to South Africa were overly optimistic, had been taken for a ride or their South African counterparts negotiated in bad faith.

For how else can one greet the shocking news this week that this matter definitely is far from having been concluded and that our Permanent Secretary has written to our sister country to further plead for the suspension of the May 1 deadline when the stringent export requirements, which are feared to will seriously negatively affect the Namibian livestock and beef industry, should have come into effect.

Not only are these requirements believed to will seriously affect the local livestock industry but at worse also totally cripple it with dire consequences to thousands of those working in this sector. As is known agriculture is one of the biggest employers in Namibia, and that includes the livestock and meat industry. And there is no doubt that our communal areas shall be severely affected because currently the bulk of the weaners exported to South Africa come from these communal areas. A record number of 260 765 cattle were exported to South Africa last year. This figure does not only explain the importance of the South African market for Namibia, but also underlines that it is an important lifeline for especially our impoverished communal farmers. Already internally these communal farmers have been feeling the pinch of suppressed livestock prizes on the market and news of the threat of stringent export regulations certainly is no good news at all whether in the short run or in the long term.

That is why the bilateral negotiations between Namibian authorities and their South African counterparts in this regard are crucial to the Namibian livestock and meat industry, as indeed to the entire Namibia populace, in view of the importance of the industry to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, if not as an important foreign exchange earner, which is unmistakable, hence the screaming headlines of hope in the local media headlining articles on the Namibian delegation to South Africa before and after the negotiations.

“All eyes on Namibian team fighting for relaxed import requirements,” read one of the headlines with the particular article pointing out that “all eyes in the Namibian livestock industry are on a Namibian delegation headed by the acting director of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (S), Dr John Shoopola, accompanied by renowned veterinarian Dr Herbert Schneider and the chairperson of the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO), Mecki Schneider, in a bid to convince the South African authorities to rethink and postpone the set deadline of May 1 for the new import requirements which has been described as ‘impossible and with far-reaching consequences for the Namibian livestock export industry’.”

Soon thereafter an article in New Era headlined “Livestock sector receives lifeline” lifted hopes that “a potentially catastrophic situation for the Namibian livestock industry was defused during successful bilateral discussions between Namibia and South Africa. “The talks resulted in both countries agreeing on less draconian veterinary requirements for the export of live animals from Namibia to South Africa.

“Namibia’s livestock industry – on which an overwhelming portion of the population relies for a livelihood – breathed a sigh of relief when the bilateral discussions ended on a high note last Friday at a meeting in Pretoria.

“Until the resolution last week, the immediate future of the industry was in the balance with local producers already zooming in on the possibilities of alternative markets in Africa.

“The two countries agreed to urgently re-examine the country-specific animal health conditions, and an ad hoc expert team comprising of one official from each country will now draft the new veterinary certificates for livestock to be exported to South Africa.” Not only this, but praise was reported to have been pouring in for the Namibian delegation for the outcome of those negotiations which “brought about the more favourable export requirements for Namibia”.

Only to now learn that the South African veterinary authorities seem to have reneged on the previous understanding with their Namibian counterparts.

Why the South African authorities are now backtracking on the previous understanding is only known to them but somehow the blame cannot solely be laid at the door of the South African authorities. Namibia as a country also needs to make a serious introspection and interrogation as to what she may have miscalculated andor committed and omitted that may have compelled South Africa to now renege on her undertaking?

Because relations between our two nations, and as much trade relations, should be a matter of give and take, especially given the friendliness and camaraderie the two countries have been enjoying since independence but which date back to the years of the liberation struggle in the two countries against a common occupier. However, it is a long way from such camaraderie since independence with different necessities, more so economic ones, now dictating relations between the two. Hence the essence of economic diplomacy in which give and take should be the guiding principle.

But as long as the two countries can continue to talk to one another, especially for the sake of their impoverished communities, everything has not been lost yet and one can only wish the two respective authorities wisdom and fortitude in the negotiations hoping that they shall meet one another halfway, as they should.

Source : New Era