8 January 2013

Namibia: Protest Looming Over Farm Versailles

Windhoek — The // Naosan /Aes Landless People's Movement plans to stage a peaceful demonstration next week to protest the ministerial decision to postpone settling on the resettlement Farm Versailles.

A few members of the group forcibly moved into Farm Versailles over the festive season, despite a standing order not to do so by the Deputy Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Priscilla Beukes.

Government has allocated the farm to the group, as part of the resettlement programme, and they were slated to move into the farm in December last year. However, Beukes halted the process at the last minute, citing problems at Farm Stinkwater, from which some of the resettlement beneficiaries are supposed to come.

Those who defied the order not to settle on the farm during the festive season say they did not experience any hostile action from the police. The //Naosan /Aes Landless People's Movement chairperson, Sululu Isaaks, said the police only inquired to confirm whether they were the rightful beneficiaries, but otherwise left them in peace.

Isaaks and other members of the movement are nevertheless unhappy with the order from the deputy minister, which has prevented the majority of the beneficiaries to take up their allocated farming plots on the farm. "The minister does not listen to her own representatives or officials in the ministry when dealing with this Versailles issue and listens to rumours from the street and acts based on them," Isaaks added.

The group has already fixed 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, since it is usually the case with newly bought government resettlement farms. Any further delay in the process is frustrating, Isaaks says.

The //Naosan /Aes Landless People's Movement is part of the broader /Khomanin tribal group in the Khomas Region, who had been fighting to reclaim what they deem their ancestral land, which they lost during the colonial era. Isaaks and her group found themselves behind bars a few years ago for illegally occupying another farm, Ongombo East.

Farm Versailles is situated on the border of the Khomas and Hardap regions. The Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development was to officially resettle the group on the farm on December 14, 2012.

Versailles was purchased for N$9.1 million and has been transferred to the Khomas Regional Council in order to resettle the uprooted communities.

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