Moving the red line is a necessary step
By Karl Lichtenberg
I welcome the call by H.E, President Hage Geingob for serious deliberations on the Red Line that separates Namibia into north and south. His call echos a suggestion I voiced in my op-ed “A different approach to fixing Namibia’s structural inequalities is needed”, that is moving the Red Line to the Angola boarder.
The Red Line or Veterinary Cordon Fence was originally created in 1896 by the imperial German administration to contain a Rinderpest outbreak. Since the 1960s it served to prevent the spread of Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) from North to South. It is important however that I maintain that the Red Line should be moved to our border with Angola, not removed completely. I am sure His Excellency the President follows a similar chain of thought.
I was surprised to find, that the Presidents call for serious deliberations on the Red Line sparked panic on social media and doomsday prophecies for the Namibian meat market. Farmers and industrialists in the south painted a dark picture of collapsing meat prices, exclusion from international markets and plagues befalling the south. They did not seem to realise, that moving the Red Line to the Border with Angola is necessary to truly unite Namibians and overcome this long-lasting inheritance of South African imposed Apartheid, that the Red Line presents.
Fear, that competition with northern farmers would collapse meat prices very much proves this point. After all, excluding northern farmers from the lucrative southern marked was an Apartheid policy goal, to increase profits for southern elites, at the same time providing them with cheap labour from the north. It is necessary we realise and start working on overcoming this legacy. Only when the Red Line is moved to the Angola border, will we as Namibians truly be united.
The fear of southern elites, that competition with the northern farmers would cause prices to collapse, as far as I can assess, is uncalled for. Global demand for meat is ever increasing, especially with Chinese consumers becoming wealthier, the demand for meat seems insatiable and even competition by northern farmers should not cause the smallest dent in meat prices.
To tap global demand, of course we need secure access to global markets. This means, that a Red Line at our Angola border would have to be enforced scrupulously, that the northern farmers respect and support it and that Zambesi Region could not be included in the unified market at this point in time, as FMD is prevalent there.
It is certain, that if northern farmers want access to southern Namibia and as a result the lucrative global market, they need to commit and carry a well-enforced Red Line at the Angola border and the border to the Zambesi Region. If there is no will by the northern population to commit and implement such a policy, it would be unwise to move the Red Line.
It is unbearable, that the majority of Namibians, most of them living in the Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions, are still separated from the rest of us by the Red Line. Only when we find a viable solution to move the Red Line to the Angola border, will most Namibians have access to the common market and we be able to fight entrenched poverty. This step would also open up the vast potential of the northern market and result in much needed economic growth.
Rather than fighting this policy, we need to work together to improve it and make sure that all Namibians stand to benefit. Northern farmers won’t win anything, if as a consequence of access to the southern Namibian market, they lose access to global markets. We all stand to benefit from moving the Red Line to the Angola border, so why not actively participate in developing a viable solution that works for all of us?
Caption: A citizens response to President Dr. Hage Geingob’s statement that serious deliberations must take place to remove the Red Line and the ensuing panic on social media.