14 December 2012

Namibia: Minister Halts Resettlement Move

Windhoek — The Deputy Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Priscilla Beukes has stopped the official occupation of resettlement farm Versailles by its intended beneficiaries.

The farm, on the border of the Khomas and Hardap regions was purchased by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement for N$9.1 million and has been transferred to the Khomas Regional Council solely for settling uprooted communities.

According to the chairperson of the //Naosan /Aes Landless People's Movement, Sululu Isaaks, her group together with people from Farm Stinkwater, who are also beneficiaries, were supposed to officially receive their letters and plot numbers from the Khomas Regional Council today.

"While we were in the planning meeting with the council's technical committee for the handover, tomorrow (Friday), the deputy minister sent a letter to the governor stopping the whole process until next year," Isaaks informed New Era yesterday.

Newly appointed Khomas Region Governor, Laura McLeod-Katjirua, called the group immediately after the planning meeting and read the deputy minister's letter to them. According to the letter, the reason why the process was stopped is because of problems at Farm Stinkwater, from which some of the beneficiaries are supposed to come.

Isaaks said they know the process was stopped, because Khomas Rural Councillor, Arrie Fredriks, and a certain Eric Hansen wrote a letter to the deputy minister, complaining about the selection criteria of Stinkwater beneficiaries. According to Isaaks, the same people who are evicting others from Stinkwater are the ones who have been identified as beneficiaries for Versailles and that is why the two individuals complained to the ministry.

Versailles has to be shared equally by members of the //Naosan /Aes Landless People's Movement and some evicted people from Stinkwater.

"So why should Stinkwater problems affect us from //Naosan /Aes? They should just stop the Stinkwater beneficiaries and let us move into our identified plots and those belonging to Stinkwater can be left idle until they resolve their issues," Isaaks said.

The //Naosan /Aes Landless Movement is part of the broader /Khomanin tribal group in the Khomas Region, who have been fighting for the return of what they consider their ancestral land and which they were dispossessed of by the colonial authorities.

Isaaks said they cannot be deprived of their farm because of the Stinkwater group, since initially her group was the one who fought to get the land. "Most of our people already did not get land on Versailles, because we had to share the land with them - now this," she fumed.

Isaaks vowed that the group would move onto the farm today, by force even if they have to be arrested. She said the order by the deputy minister is affecting them both psychologically and financially.

"We had planned to spend Christmas at our home and now this? Moreover, some people have already hired and paid trucks to move their stuff to Versailles, while some of us have already planted gardens and need to look after them," Isaaks added.

The group has also fixed some of the dilapidated infrastructure at the farm, spending at least N$23 000 out of their own pockets, in a bid to hasten the whole process in case government takes long to fix the infrastructure, which is normally the case on newly bought resettlement farms.

"The farm was already officially handed over to us on 20 April 2012 and we have still not occupied the land, while beneficiaries of other resettlement farms have already moved in," she claimed.

Isaaks and her group were arrested and spent time in jail, after their illegal occupation of Ongombo East, a few years ago. "Even if we have to spend Christmas in jail, we are going to move onto our farm! They can come and arrest us again," she vowed.

Khomas Rural Councillor, Arrie Fredriks, was not prepared to make any comments on the issue yesterday, saying existing problems should first be resolved. "But there are a lot of irregularities on that farm," Fredriks said before hanging up.

Fredriks was earlier accused of moving in someone illegally to the newly acquired Farm Versailles No. 67 on the border of the Khomas and Hardap regions. Attempts to reach the deputy minister or any other official in the ministry were unsuccessful.

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