11 January 2013

Namibia: Minister Speaks Out On Farm Versailles Occupation

Windhoek — The Deputy Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Priscilla Beukes has expressed shock over the planned demonstration by the //Naosan /Aes Landless People's Movement.

The group threatened to protest next week against the directive issued by Beukes on December 14 last year, which prevents them from settling on the state-acquired farm Versailles as its rightful and lawful beneficiaries.

However, Beukes yesterday said she only delayed the official settlement process for two days and allowed the community to move into the farm following a meeting with the technical committee and representatives of the //Naosan /Aes and Stinkwater residents on December 18, 2012. She only halted the official settlement temporarily to attend to grievances over plot allocations on the farm, she said.

"I am shocked by their decision. I even rushed back from another official duty, when I heard about their plans to move in forcefully and the fact that they wanted to spend Christmas at the farm and we resolved the problem," said Beukes who is still on holiday in a telephonic interview yesterday.

The reasons provided to the Versailles beneficiaries for the last-minute halt last year, were related to problems experienced at Farm Stinkwater, from which some of the resettlement beneficiaries are supposed to come.

The same people who are reportedly evicting others from Stinkwater are the ones who have been identified as beneficiaries of Farm Versailles, and that from where the unhappiness stems, according to Beukes. Farm Versailles has to be shared equally by members of the //Naosan /Aes Landless People's Movement and some evicted people from Farm Stinkwater.

However, Beukes denied knowing anything about the Stinkwater problems, saying that was never the reason why the process was halted.

"I received a letter of complaint from some people saying that the elderly and vulnerable beneficiaries were given plots far away from water points. So I wanted to solve that problem before they could move in. And after our meeting on December 18, 2012, we reached agreement and they were free to move in. I do not understand what their agenda is really, " she added.

Beukes said she was never informed about the Stinkwater issue, noting that perhaps the technical committee would still inform her about that issue. Sululu Isaaks of the //Naosan /Aes Landless People's Movement, alleged that the deputy minister stopped the process, because Khomas Rural Councilor, Arrie Fredriks instigated her to do so, since his father did not get a plot on the farm. It is an allegation that the deputy minister has denied.

"I do not deal with individuals, but communities. That is why I did not entertain Arrie's call when I established that he wanted to talk about Versailles," she said. Isaaks however says if the deputy minister's statement meant they could move in, it was not explicitly communicated.

"If we were allowed to move in, why did they send the police to come to Versailles? The minister is not telling the truth. She is just looking for ways to defend herself," she insisted. Meanwhile, the Special Advisor to the Khomas Regional Governor Moses !Omeb said the governor's office is still waiting for feedback.

"We are waiting to hear from the technical committee or the deputy minister herself. We do not want to act on rumours. We are awaiting proper and special feedback," !Omeb said. 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. The farm was officially handed over on April 20, 2012 already, however beneficiaries are yet to move into the farm officially.

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