FARMERS grazing at the Uulunga Wakolondo area in the Oshana region claim their livestock have died, are miscarriaging and are falling sick, following a Namibian Defence Force exercise in the area.
A military operation called Khan Strike II took place in the area from 25 September to 28 October.
The exercise was aimed to enhance joint training and collaboration between the defence force, the air force, the navy, and the special forces by evaluating and testing the combat readiness of equipment, firepower, and logistics support, as well as the competence of officers and troops in conventional warfare.
According to Timoteus Iilonga, one of the farmers in the area, six of his cattle died at his cattle post during this time.
He says some of his animals are now foaming at the mouth and have dry noses.
Iilonga says he was last week informed by his neighbour that one of the neighbour’s cows was ill, and that he needed to visit the cattle post.
When he got to there, the cow was dead, he says.
He says he subsequently discovered six other animals in a decomposed state.
“They [the NDF] were shooting in the grazing area, and they did not clean the area afterwards.
“Ashes and cartridges are still lying around there. We have now stopped grazing our animals in that area,” Iilonga says.
He says soldiers told him two oxen were accidentally shot during the exercise.
“But the Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs did not inform the farmers that soldiers have accidentally shot animals,” he says.
Another farmer, Ngendina Mvula, says four cows from his cattle post have miscarriaged after the exercise, while four more are sick and two have died.
Mvula’s brother Penda says they believe the shooting exercise has polluted the environment.
He says prior to the exercise, lengthy consultations took place between the farmers and Okatyali constituency councillor Joseph Mupetami.
The farmers claim they were told to vacate an area designated to the Namibian Defence Force.
“A meeting took place at Ondangwa, which was attended by honourable Mupetami, senior officials from the NDF, NamWater, and a representative from the Ondonga Traditional Authority,” Penda says.
He says the farmers did not agree to evacuate the area.
“Farmers have feared their animals would die as has been happening all the years after military exercises. As a result the farmers have selected a committee to meet the governor of the Oshana region, Elia Irimari, on the same issue, but the governor and Mupetami did not hear the cry of the farmers,” he says.
Penda says due to the NDF not cleaning up the area after the military exercixse, animals now have to drink contaminated water.
“Engagements had been made to stop the military exercise, but all the farmers’ efforts were in vain,” he says.
Kleopas Angombe says he lost 14 cattle after the first military exercise in the area in 2010.
“That year I called the ministry of agriculture, to look into the matter. They took a sample from the carcasses and conducted a post mortem, and the results were that the cattle died due to contaminated water and grass in the area.”
Angombe says the ministry also confirmed that the NDF’s weapons were a danger to the animals in the area.
“They warned us to wait for some time before bringing our animals to drink from a nearby dam after the exercise has taken place,” he says.
Mupetami yesterday said he was not aware that the farmers’ livestock were dying, and said there was no evidence to prove that it was as a result of the NDF exercise.
“Since time immemorial, animals have been dying and miscarriaging. Is it because of the military exercise? Those people are not telling the truth,” he said.
Irimari said he has been informed of the matter, but referred questions to the defence ministry.
Defence spokesperson major Tangeni Shikomba last week said cases of animals dying are due the community’s ignorance, since they were told to remove their animals from the designated area.
“Councillor Mupetami was always on the radio telling them to remove their cows from the area,” he said.
The chief veterinary officer in the agriculture ministry, John Shoopala, said farmers should report animal health-related matters to their nearest state veterinarian.
“With regards to the past, as far as I can recall, there was an individual farmer who complained and was attended to accordingly. The findings were that there was no link to that, as these were due to infectious diseases and internal parasites,” he said.