Cattle smuggling ring busted in Oshikoto

… Several prominent business people implicated

• BY MARX ITAMALO

THE police in Oshikoto working in collaboration with members of the public have unmasked a cattle smuggling syndicate whereby cattle and small stock such as goats have been stolen from villagers within the region and sold for a song to meat vendors and some business people in and around Ondangwa town.

The syndicate was laid bare following the arrest of two individuals, who are believed to be the masterminds in the syndicate. Last Saturday at Ondangwa, the police and members of the public arrested two men, who were suspected of having stolen two head of cattle and nine goats from villages around Onathingwe, Oniimbwele and Oshali. The duo was apprehended in Okangwena location where they had stopped to rest and drink after delivering their loot to clients at Onethindi, Ondangwa and Omaalala.

Villagers from the affected areas, had followed the tracks of the pair until Ondangwa where they got intelligence that the smugglers were seen driving with two cattle.

“We were told they had gone to deliver the cattle to one lady selling meat at Adolf in the Omaalala area. We also got information that they would come back here (Okangwena), so we waited for them,” one villager who requested anonymity told Confidente via phone on Tuesday.

When the pair returned, community members pounced on them, questioning and assaulting them in the process. The police were called and interrogations unmasked a stock smuggling syndicate entangling several meat vendors and business people from areas around Ondangwa.

During the questioning, the suspects narrated how they steal cattle and goats from kraals at night and drive them to clients based at Ondangwa and surrounding areas. Some of those mentioned well established vendors who have been in the meat industry for many years. Some sell meat at Onethindi and Ondangwa open markets. Others sell along the Ondangwa – Ongwediva main road. Cattle were allegedly sold for as low as N$3 000 or N$4 000, according to the suspects.

Questioned to whom they sold the goats, one of the suspects alluded to a businessman at Oniimbwele location in Oshikoto. “He used to send us and buy the goats from us,” one of the suspects responded upon inquiry. On that particular occasion, they had sold three goats to the businessman, he said.

The suspects were taken to Onayena police station and later transferred to Omuthiya holding cells.

Confidente has established the suspects aged 28 and 32, appeared in the Ondangwa Magistrate’s Court on Monday where they were denied bail and the case postponed to next year.

Farmers in areas of Oshikoto and Oshana have long complained of missing animals mostly cattle which they say appear always to have disappeared in total obscurity. The arrest of the two suspects last weekend appeared to have confirmed the farmers’ long held suspicion that a smuggling gang was active in the two regions.

Meanwhile, a police investigator attached to the anti- stock theft unit in Oshikoto told Confidente on Tuesday that the arrest of the pair is a breakthrough in bringing to book all those involved in the purchasing of stolen animals in Oshikoto.

“Cattle have been missing in Oshikoto since last year but they just evaporate into thin air. We anticipate to arrest and charge more people including those whose names were mentioned. We are going to question them vigorously until they tell us everyone involved. There might be even some big names involved, you never know,” the officer pointed out although on condition of anonymity alluding to departmental policy which prohibits junior officers to speak to the press.

Head of police operations in Oshikoto commissioner Petrus Shigwedha upon inquiry confirmed the arrests on Tuesday and the ongoing investigations.