If things are done for the right reasons in the first place, this shouldn’t be necessary. And like Namibians who went into exile in the struggle days shouldn’t be entitled to a reward for doing so, so too we shouldn’t have to ‘recompense’ those country allies who similarly supported the liberation movement, Swapo, back in the day. It is with this in mind that I am totally opposed to what has become known as the ‘Noah’s Ark’ gift to Cuba - namely, the transfer of some 150 of our wild animals to a zoological park near Havana, for this and for other reasons.
THE ruling party tends to forget that the people footing the bill for ‘payback’ in all respects, are the taxpayers of this country, among them thousands who won’t benefit from entitlement schemes, yet they have to pay the price. If Swapo, out of its own coffers, wanted to ‘thank’ its formerly exiled supporters or its country allies, we wouldn’t have a problem with it. After all, the Party does have extensive resources of its own, from property to businesses. Name it, Swapo probably has a hand in it! But to use OUR money, without consulting us, to underwrite these discriminatory and/or harebrained schemes, is both unconscionable and cruel!
The NSPCA, according to a report by the Guardian’s David Smith, has expressed ‘disgust’ at the transfer of some 150 wildlife, encompassing 23 different species, from Namibia to Cuba. Although our Minister of Environment, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, says the ‘gift’ is CITES compliant, I’m not so sure. Certain species have been excluded from ‘Noah’s Ark’, but this is a massive transfer, and I wonder how many are going to make it there alive, let alone survive in the park where, according to what a Cuban spokesperson told the BBC, they will be able to move around “semi-freely”. I wonder quite what that means!
In 2006, at the behest of former President Sam Nujoma, Namibia made a similar ‘gift’ to Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, of some 250 wildlife – also at a cost that is not known – for the Sumu Wildlife Park in Bauchi State to ‘promote tourism’, and I wonder how many of those animals have survived. At least this transfer was on the same continent, but I think Namibian taxpayers deserve a report-back as to whether the wildlife survived; if the ‘gift’ had the desired effect on Nigerian tourism, and what the final cost was to the taxpayer (never mind what prompted the gift in the first place as I’m not entirely sure what Nigeria did for our liberation, but then history has been skewed to pretend the Chinese were our allies back then, so who knows?)
Meanwhile the wildlife are being kept in ‘quarantine’, apparently for three months, before the first transfer in October from the wild into captivity.
I fail to understand why conservation people in Namibia haven’t spoken out more against this ‘gift’. Why does the protest have to emanate from neighbouring South Africa, and not from among ourselves? Ditto the seal cull. Fear is probably the operative word, because I am sure in our environmental community, there are those who are opposed to the project!
I know of many who will say these are animals and not people, but that’s precisely my point: that the wildlife in question should be kept at home and not sent at astronomical cost to a country where they do not belong and where they may not survive, when the money could have been better spent on our people in need.
There’s also irony in the fact that while we ‘gift’ Nigeria and Cuba our wildlife, in the first instance to promote tourism in that African country, that activists will be calling for a boycott of our tourist industry because of these foolish moves.
Nandi-Ndaitwah also said that the exact expenditure would only be known once the exercise is completed next year. This is unacceptable. The ‘gift’ must surely have a price tag attached, and we deserve to know what that will be. There have already been several trips to Cuba, with large delegations, which must have cost a pretty sum; the wildlife are said to be worth 7.5 million, and how many planeloads – charters no doubt – will be required to get them there?
We have no right to be giving such expensive and ill-considered ‘gifts’ at a time when we have pressing socio-economic priorities to attend to at home.
I wish I could stop this folly!