Government not buying votes: Herunga

09 Jul 2014 12:20pm
WINDHOEK, 09 JUL (NAMPA) – The Namibian Government is not “buying votes” for the upcoming elections by supplying elephant meat to communities, the Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET) Uaheka Herunga said on Tuesday.
Herunga's response follows heavy criticism from local and foreign conservationists as well as animal welfare organisations that the Namibian Government is not utilising natural resources sustainably, and is “dishing out professional elephant hunting permits so that it can distribute the meat to gain votes in the upcoming general elections”.
Speaking during the tourism close-off event organised by the Millennium Challenge Account-Namibia (MCA-N) here he said by supplying meat to people, Government is utilising natural resources sustainably, and it will continue to improve the livelihoods of her people.
The MCA-Namibia programme comes to end in September 2014.
“We are proud of what we have achieved. We have the highest number of cheetahs in the world; elephant and rhino populations have increased; yet were are criticised for using our natural resources sustainably. Since independence, the Namibian Government, communities, the private sector and non-governmental organisations have worked closely to achieve a common vision – that of improving the livelihoods of our people through sustainable and responsible resource management practices,” said the minister.
Herunga said the country’s natural resources should be protected as stipulated in the Namibian Constitution, and citizens should benefit from it sustainably.
“Responsible resource management contributes directly to the protection of our environment and improve the experiences of tourists visiting our country,” he added.
Recent international reports claimed that just months ahead of the elections slated for November this year, government has issued hunting permits for rare desert elephants in the north-western Kunene Region, where community members have not previously shown much support for the ruling-Swapo party.
These reports carried in a local English daily newspaper alleged that the timing of these hunting permits was “vote-buying, rather than conservation”.
It was alleged that government has proceeded with the sale of these hunting permits, against the advice of highly qualified scientists and conservationists, who are working tirelessly to protect and understand these desert elephants.
It was further claimed that other options have been made available to government, including replacing the elephant meat with beef for the earmarked villages.