Epukiro councillor Packy Pakarae has lamented the continuous influx of what he claims are illegal immigrants, saying they are now becoming kingpins in cattle theft schemes and contributing to the mushrooming of illegal townships.
Pakarae, in conversation with New Era recently, said the migrants mainly come from the southern parts of neighbouring Angola, and primarily consist of groups from the Ovatue, Ovakuvale, Ovazemba and Ovahakaona sub-tribes.
He said the migrants are scattered all over villages within the Epukiro constituency and are mostly in search of employment opportunities from the local communal farmers.
“To be quite honest, they are really becoming a lot here in our constituency as they mostly arrive in large numbers and in family units. If not all, most of them do not have identity documents and that clearly shows that they have entered the country illegally. It’s really a difficult situation, not just for us as a constituency, but for the whole of Omaheke region as well,” bemoaned the councillor.
But due to a lack of economic opportunities, the migrants are allegedly resorting to livestock theft for survival as many are being employed as cattle rustlers by the locals.
“They come here looking for jobs as cattle and small livestock herders, but once employment opportunities become hard to come by, since they do not have
identification documents; they then start resorting to other illegal activities. The biggest challenge at the moment is rampant cattle theft and they [migrants] have now become kingpins in these theft schemes across the region.”
“They are always at the centre of most cattle theft syndicates.
The migrants are recruited by the local cattle rustlers to move the stolen livestock between villages and constituencies. What happens in most cases is that they will for example steal cattle in Epukiro and then exchange them with another rustler at Otjinene or Otjombinde in order to avoid being traced. The local rustlers have found cheap labour in these illegal migrants and they are robbing our local communities of their livelihoods,” he said.
Pakarae said community and police efforts to curb the situation are constantly in motion, but they are many a time limited by the law as there are procedures and laws on how illegal immigrants should be treated and handled.
“It’s a tricky situation and we also try our best to educate the public on how to handle the migrants. One cannot just load them on a bus or truck and go dump them at whatever place they come from, that’s not what the law says.
Our local laws are clear on issues of human dignity and asylum seekers, so we have to follow the law by collaborating with our immigration officers as they are the ones who will know best how to categorise the migrants and where they should be send after hearing their cases,” explained Pakarae.
Epukiro has approximately over 52
villages whose livelihoods mainly consist of livestock farming, complimented by a few non-farming activities such as retail shops and vending activities.