Gobabis — The men accused of stealing cattle from neighbouring Botswana and driving them into Namibia some three weeks ago could face up to a N$1 million fine, or 20 years behind bars, if convicted of the offence.
The fine is relatively hefty because despite being charged with stock theft, the two will also have to answer to a charge relating to the violation of livestock import laws.
Such punishment is in accordance with the Animal Health Act 1 of 2011, which provides for severe punishment for offenders in a bid to protect the beef sector.
The two men, Michael Karuuombe, 33, and Kito Maasdorp, 35, allegedly stole a cow and a calf from Botswana's Ghanzi District some three weeks ago and illegally drove them into Namibia through the Omaheke Region's Otjombinde Constituency.
They were subsequently arrested and made their initial court appearance on July 26 before Gobabis magistrate Godfried Chazande.
They were denied bail and are remanded in custody.
Deputy chief veterinary officer: animal disease control in the Directorate of Veterinary Services, Dr John Shoopala, told New Era on Monday the accused have also been charged for illegally bringing the livestock into Namibia as no import permit was sought for the exercise.
According to Shoopala, laws governing the movement of animals between countries are strict to avoid a possible loss of income to farmers and the country, hence the stiff punishment.
"Namibia is a country governed by the rule of law and everything has to be done by the book, no shortcuts at all. It will depend on the presiding officer in the matter, but that is the stipulated punishment range for such an offence," Shoopala explained.
He said Namibia as a beef producing country and also a major exporter of the commodity has enacted the stiff punishment to deter would-be offenders from jeopardizing the sector.
"Many people in Namibia are dependent on livestock farming and it is also a major contributor to the country's economy, therefore the government is strict on these issues," he said.
Shoopala said the fact the cattle were driven through an undesignated entry point into Namibia is a clear testimony that the culprits in the matter never intended to make use of applicable procedures governing livestock imports.
The matter was critical taking into account that a part of Botswana is quarantined as it is prone to the dreaded foot and mouth disease (FMD).