31 January 2013

Namibia: Govt to Pay Gam Farmers N$3.2 Million

Judge Nate Ndauendapo on Tuesday awarded the 32 Herero farmers from the Gam area, whose cattle were impounded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, damages in the amount of N$3.2 million for their cattle numbering 995 with interest at a rate of 20 percent from July 17 2010 to the date of final payment.

Judge Ndauendapo further ordered the respondents, namely the Government of the Republic of Namibia, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the Minister of Safety and Security and the Minister of Justice, to pay the legal costs of the 32 aggrieved farmers.

During an earlier court session, Judge Ndauendapo requested each of the 32 farmers to give oral evidence to determine the exact number of cattle confiscated after the farmers had driven their cattle into the Nyae Nyae Conservancy area in April 2009.

The farmers claimed that they had no choice but to enter the conservancy since their cattle were dying from a poisonous plant (Cymosium dichapetalum). The farmers were already compensated N$4.4 million in July 2011 for 1 333 animals that were confiscated and disposed of.

The farmers then claimed compensation for a further 844 cattle was still outstanding and this was what gave rise to the civil action by the farmers under the leadership of Karandata Katjizeu. They claimed that through the confiscation of their livestock, their livelihoods were threatened, leaving them in permanent destitution.

A bone of contention was the admission by then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Andrew Ndishishi, that 2 177 cattle were confiscated, an admission which he later wanted to withdraw.

Judge Ndauendapo, however, wanted to hear nothing of that and held that the admission was not explained and dismissed the application for the admission to be withdrawn. The farmers further claimed that the state had no authorisation to confiscate or destroy their animals.

The cattle of the farmers, who are descendants of the Herero people who fled the German genocide of 1904 and settled in Botswana, were impounded by the police after the farmers were arrested in May 2009 when they illegally drove their cattle over the veterinary fence into the Nyae Nyae Conservancy.

The livestock was first held at the Tsumkwe police station, then moved to Apel Pos outside of Tsumkwe, and later moved to quarantine facilities in the Mangetti and Oshivelo areas. The farmers were represented by advocates Theo Frank and Adolf Denk instructed by the law firm Dr Weder, Kauta and Hoveka, while advocates Gerson Hinda and Christie Mostert represented the state.

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