14 February 2013

Namibia: Kilus Accused of Instigating Land Grab

CONTROVERSIAL Swapo Party politician and deputy minister of works, Kilus Nguvauva, is accused of having instructed resettlement farmers to push their cattle onto Portion 2 of Farm Coetzee in the Steinhausen Constituency of the Omaheke Region.

The 185-hectare camp was given on a 99-year lease agreement to the Gqaina School Promotion & Furtherance Trust, which runs the Gqaina primary school, by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement in 2002.

The school was built in 1993, initially for San children living in the area. Currently half the school population consist of San children. The school is a private entity assisted by the Ministry of Education.

According to the lease agreement, the school can keep 10 head of cattle and 70 sheep and goats in the camp. The school buys these animals from farmers or speculators and resell them as a source of income.

Nguvauva, who still holds the position of regional councillor for the Steinhausen Constituency, has in this capacity allowed 40 cattle owned by resettlement beneficiaries to graze in the school camp since 2010.

According to statements made to the police, Nguvauva on Saturday, October 23 2010 approached a worker at the school, Jakob Tjee, and asked for the key to the camp, purportedly to inspect a dam where the locals were accused of having stolen roof sheets. He reportedly then said he wanted to look at the camp.

Later that day, Tjee noticed unfamiliar cattle in the camp, which he chased off, but the cattle were back in the camp by the next day.

The matter was reported to the police on Monday, October 25 2010, and a police officer later brought the owners of the cattle to the school where he told them to remove their cattle until some sort of an agreement could be reached between the school and Nguvauva.

But no agreement was reached, and the owners of the cattle have since refused to remove the cattle, and have instead threatened the school staff that they would be imprisoned if they dared chase off the cattle.

Nguvauva is accused of having instigated people to settle their animals in the school camp since 2002.

Then, the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister Hage Geingob alleging that Nguvauva was planning farm invasions in the Omaheke Region.

Nguvauva denied the allegation that he had encouraged people to graze their cattle in the school camp, but said: "Yes, I did allow them to graze their cattle in that camp."

Nguvauva was recently quoted on the NBC Herero radio station as saying that he did so because "rich white farmers" were keeping their cattle in the camp.

"It is not acceptable to me in my constituency for a camp that has been allocated for the benefit of the San children to benefit the former and still advantaged commercial farmers who are having the whole land and their so-called private land," Nguvauva said.

He said white farmers were grazing their cattle in the school camp, "while the blacks who have been dismissed from their farms after serving them for many years for them to be rich as they are now, should struggle with their animals in these corridors".

He then continued: "No, what is that? What are we doing? What is it what we forget, what is what we cannot remember, and you expect me to sit and fold my hands while those injustices are happening in an independent Namibia led by our mighty Swapo Party? You want me really to sit down and enjoy the painfulness of the people who brought me to power while the wrong things are practised? You want me to sit and enjoy the nice aircons in my offices and nice cars and nice everything while the people are suffering who elected me?"

One of the accused "rich white farmers", Eberhard Tölken, who is also a member of the Gqaina school board, flatly denied this allegation, saying that the cattle invasion was an attempt by Nguvauva to get votes and to unsettle the fragile land issue.

"We have tried to take the matter to the lawyers, there were quite a number of evictions [of the cattle], but he [Nguvauva] does not care. He says he is the government. I have spoken to him on a number of occasions to solve the situation in a peaceful way. He has requested the school's banking accounts, and all was cleared," Tölken said.

In a letter to Nguvauva late last year, Tölken wrote that the camp was legitimately leased and the trustees had invested much time and energy in the cattle project solely for the purposes of furthering the Gqaina school's interests.

"This is one of the best primary schools in Namibia. It is a school of the poorest of the poor, but now its existence is threatened because of the illegal grazing," Tölken said.

Nguvauva had promised to give a response to the school last year, but he has yet to do so.

He told The Namibian yesterday that he wants experts to investigate the school's accounts because he feels the camp is not used for the purpose it was intended for.

"Why should people graze in the corridors while Tölken uses the camp?" he said. "I cannot allow those who are having three farms to come and have their cattle graze in the camp bought by the government for the disadvantaged. Why should I leave what is wrong? I have the mandate to rectify things. One day I will be asked what I have done when these things are happening."

Nguvauva said he had written a letter to Lands and Resettlement Minister Alpheus !Naruseb, in which he said he would allow outsiders to graze their cattle in the school camp while he is waiting for the investigation.

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