ABOUT seven small-scale grape growers on the Orange River were served with High Court eviction orders to vacate their plots last week.
The growers, who form part of the Orange River Irrigation Project (Orip), have until tomorrow to move or be evicted by the police.
The High Court order follows numerous threats of eviction since 2010 by the Ministry of Agriculture under its former permanent secretary, Andrew Ndishishi.
The standoff between the ministry and the farmers stems from the farmers' refusal to sell their produce through a government-appointed service provider, Cool Fresh Namibia.
Deputy Sheriff Andrew Walters confirmed that he had served about seven small-scale farmers with eviction notices last week.
The Government wants the farmers off the State-owned vineyards after it terminated a lease agreement it had entered with the farmers, claiming they have violated several conditions in the agreement.
The affected farmers say the eviction threats started in 2010 when they started to sell their produce directly to a Dutch-based international grape buyer. In terms of the agreement, the farmers had with the government, they were supposed to market their produce through Cool Fresh Namibia (CFN) alone.
The farmers claimed they had bypassed Cool Fresh Namibia after it had breached an agreement towards the end of 2009 by allegedly discontinuing a monthly allowance of N$4 000 they used to receive as part of their advance payment on their profits.
The farmers claimed they severed ties with CFN because it was impoverishing them and monopolising their farming.
They accused CFN of keeping them in the dark about their earnings.
In a bid to fix the the deteriorating relations with the small-scale farmers, the government and CFN subsequently came up with a tripartite agreement.
However, the farmers refused the sign the agreement, which they claimed was not beneficial to them because it gave total control of their cash flow and business decisions to CFN.
The farmers yesterday reiterated that they would not move from their plots.
"Our only sin is that we want to farm independently, therefore we'll stay put. Government preaches about empowerment and development, but it has failed us," said one of the farmers, Augustinus Haith.
Claiming that the government had promised to empower the farmers when they started with the ORIP project in 2001, Haith asked: "What happened to the empowerment Government had promised us? We're now swamped by debt. Now it is turning its back on us. Is that what they call empowerment?"
Late last year, Agribank obtained a High Court order to attach grapes produced on Orip plots as security for loans of more than N$1,2 million owed by the farmers.
In terms of the order, Agribank was supposed to take half of the proceeds of the sale of the grapes but, according to the farmers, Agribank kept everything, claiming it had sold the grapes at a loss.