Aluta continua despite lifting of animal restrictions in Okakarara

The lifting of the ban on the movement of animals in the Okakarara and Grootfontein veterinary districts notwithstanding, for the Onjati Pressure Group [OPG] it is aluta continua.

State veterinarian Milton Maseke on Friday announced the immediate lifting of the ban, however adding that the lifting of the restrictions is not applicable to the Waterberg Plateau Park. The lifting of the restrcitions came exactly close to two months after they came into effect towards the end of April when a buffalo was sighted at the village of Okauarongo in the Okakarara Constituency. Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Dr Malan Lindeque, was once quoted as saying there is no quick fix to the threat of about 900 buffaloes roaming the Waterberg Plateau, which are regarded as an economic threat to Namibia's multi-billion livestock industry as carriers of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). Addressing the annual congress of the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) in 2015, he was responding to what he called a radical request by some members on the floor at the congress for the removal of all the buffaloes from the Waterberg Plateau and relocating them to Zambezi, or even culling the buffaloes. Lindeque then called it an unwelcome remark, saying the buffalo population in the park does not pose a threat to the entire livestock industry of the country, worth some N$5 billion per annum. He said despite the buffalo population having boomed over the years in the park, only three to five individual cases of buffaloes entering the livestock producing areas had been recorded and each and every time these stray buffaloes were traced and tested negative for FMD. But the Onjati group says it is aluta continua with their efforts to seek audience with the highest political authority in the country given that previous efforts have proven futile. To them the recurrence of the buffaloes may eventually pose a real threat to them as meat producers and to the entire meat industry if it is not dealt with once and for all. One of the OPG's steering committee members, Ebson-Louw Muhipa, says the restrictions on the movement of animals has only been one of their concerns, and only in the interim. They have many more long-term concerns, which is overpopulation of buffaloes in the Waterberg Plateau Park. Hence they will continue to exert the necessary pressure on the powers that be, as much as they have sought the lifting of the restrictions in the shortest and quickest time.

Although due to his heavy schedule the president of the country may not be able to see them, they are hoping on an audience with the minister of presidential affairs and are currently awaiting confirmation of a date in this regard. Among their suggestions is that the buffaloes in the park be ear-tagged so that when stray out of the park and are sighted they are easily identifiable, thus eliminating the need for the restrictions on the movement of animals. Further, OPG, which unites communal farmers from the regions of Otjozondjupa and Omaheke, also proposes the depopulation of the buffaloes in the park either by auctioning or culling them. Also they are seeking the standardisation of the veterinary cordon fence [VCF] by erecting a new galvanized fence to keep buffaloes from affected areas. In this regard they volunteer the requisite labour to reduce tendering costs. The OPG thinks there must be a time frame to this so that by next June, 50 percent of these tasks would have been carried out.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia