Otjiwarongo — The Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Alpheus !Naruseb, on Wednesday met and interacted with disgruntled resettled farmers at Farm Marburg No 1, some 40 kilometres north of Otjiwarongo to hear their concerns and resolve disputes over land before they get out of control.
!Naruseb is currently visiting resettlement farms and cooperatives in the Kunene, Oshikoto, Otjozondjupa and Erongo regions to assess the farms and to appraise levels of productivity, as well as resolve lingering disputes which he described as counter-productive to the entire resettlement process.
Five families were resettled at Farm Marburg No 1 in 2006 from Farm Cleveland, which became a cement factory, but when government bought Unit B of the farm, which is allocated to Thusnelda Tjiriange, eight former farm workers and their families were already living there.
The families of farm workers were issued an eviction order on September 12, 2012 and ordered to move from the unit to another where they have been resettled, but they refused to move and requested a meeting with the minister to hear their concerns.
Hilda Gawases, who spoke on behalf of the eight families, said that they wrote a letter directly to the minister without following regional channels because they were forced to do so by the problems they are facing.
She said the main problem they had is that when the farm became available for resettlement they also applied and were not granted a unit on the farm. She said they also did not get any feedback from the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement regarding the status of their application.
Gaweses listed the group's problems to the minister, saying that the place where they are resettled is small and not suitable to accommodate the families, and it lacks a reliable water supply.
"The soldiers were sent here to chase us away from the farm. This really hurt us because we have these old people here and our livestock," she told the minister and officials from the ministry. "The legal beneficiaries also prohibit us to bury our loved ones on the land if they pass away," Gawases added.
She accused officials from the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement in the Otjozondjupa Region of not communicating directly with them, but through other resettled farmers, despite the fact these officials have their contact numbers.
The resettled farmers are also accused of sub-leasing camps to white farmers, thus depriving them of grazing.
One of the resettled farmers, Fritz Nghishililwa, who is allocated Unit A of Farm Marburg in response said that the blame should not be put on them who own the land legally but on government. "If the people were removed before we came here, we shouldn't be here today. We are actually enemies because of government," he said.
Another woman, who was resettled on the farm, accused the eight families, especially the younger ones of stock theft and vandalism of property. She said that she came to the farm with 80 goats, but now has less than 18 left. She further said the young people are rude and undisciplined.
After hearing arguments from both sides, !Naruseb told the farmers what happened cannot be undone.
"What we can do is to take responsibility for what has taken place on the farm from now on," he said, adding that everything should be done in conformity with the rules under which resettled beneficiaries are supposed to conduct themselves.
At the end of the meeting both parties seemed happy, as a proposal was made to resettle Tjiriange on another farm, leaving the 8 families on the same plot they have occupied for years.
The minister urged the beneficiaries to make productive use of the farm. "You cannot stay on the farm doing nothing, but you should engage in productive activities such as the growing of crops," he said.