18 February 2013

Namibia: Versailles Resettled Move in

NEARLY a year after the Khomas Regional Council handed over Farm Versailles to the //Naosan /Aes Landless People's Movement and Stinkwater #Hatsamas resettlement beneficiaries, 87 families have finally moved in.

The resettlement process was beset by controversies, with claims that Khomas Rural councillor Frederick Arie bedevilled the settlement of the beneficiaries. Late last year, the deputy minister of regional and local government, housing and rural development, Priscilla Beukes, called for a postponement of the resettlement process, reportedly on wrongful advice.

In response, the //Naosan /Aes group threatened to stage a protest to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the process.

But the two groups of beneficiaries were officially handed the farm on Friday by Khomas governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua.

Each of the identified 87 families, which consist mostly of elderly people, was allotted one hectare for residential purposes, which total about 3 000 hectares of the 6 938-hectare farm. The remaining part of the farm will be communally used for agricultural purposes.

"This will be a Big Brother farm but people should make it a point to live together; it will not be easy because the 87 families are from different backgrounds. But they have to be able to share the joys and share the difficulties," said McLeod-Katjirua before officially handing over the farm to the beneficiaries with stringent conditions on the farm use.

Farm Versailles was transferred on April 20 last year by the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development to resettle the two communities.

The ministry later placed the farm under the Khomas Regional Council's administration, which was tasked to plan and administer all logistical arrangements towards the physical resettlement of the beneficiaries on the farm.

But it was a process beset with problems and apparent political agendas.

One of the issues that needed to be ironed out was the actual list of people from the 200 //Naosan /Aes group and the 190 Stinkwater community.

After a list of the beneficiaries was compiled through consultative meetings, nine members of the Stinkwater community was taken off the list.

Three of the nine Stinkwater people were presumably removed from the list because they are considered co-owners of Stinkwater.

One of those taken off the list from the Stinkwater group, Hans Cloete, denied being a co-owner of Stinkwater, saying his grandmother had sold off their piece of the farm, leaving her descendants landless.

He further complained that he had assisted the Versailles group with the restoration of water infrastructure, and should thus have been considered as a beneficiary on the farm, charging that it was councillor Arie who insisted that he should not be on the list after he was given a plot number for Versailles.

With the intervention of Stinkwater chairperson Jan Kotze, Cloete was given permission to temporarily share a Versailles plot with his brother, David Cloete.

Those resettled on Versailles include three members of those evicted from the private Audabib farm in 2011. They were given permission to temporarily stay at Farm Versailles before the //Naosan /Aes and Stinkwater people were given the go-ahead to move in.

These include Christian Doeseb, who was accused of having staged illegal settlements at Audabib, Magrieta Kharobes, and Adam Gaseb, who had worked at Versailles and stayed on after the commercial farmers sold the farm.

Chairperson of the

//Naosan /Aes group, Sululu Isaaks on Friday said those members of the two groups would be considered for resettlement once farms are available.

According to the Stinkwater chairperson Kotze, resettlement farms are being identified as a second phase for //Naosan /Aes and Stinkwater groups to be resettled on five farms in the Khomas, Hardap, Kunene, Karas, and Erongo regions.

"There is unhappiness among those who have not yet been resettled; everyone needs land but not all can get land. That is why the committees of the groups and the Khomas Regional council technical committee are still meeting to see how those can be accommodated," said Kotze.

He however added that the process to select the Versailles list of beneficiaries was done in a "free and fair" manner.

"If anyone is unhappy about that process, then I have nothing more to say. The technical committee has done a proper job," Kotze said.

McLeod-Katjirua has visited Farm Versailles earlier in the week before the handing out of the plots, and said she was "very impressed" with the plans the two communities have devised for the farm.

"Resettlement is taking place all over the country, but I have not never before come across such an organised group," McLeod-Katjirua said.

Isaaks said a number of joint projects will be embarked upon. The groups have started a gardening project which has already yielded crops, and have started to rehabilitate the water infrastructure with their own money, and reportedly no assistance from the ministry.

"We cannot wait for the government to do things for us. The government must find us along the way. We have done a survey of resettlement farms, and we have seen the kind of problems these farms face. We have learned from others' mistakes," Isaaks said.

The farm was allocated to the beneficiaries but occupancy is subject to a number of conditions explained to the beneficiaries.

These conditions include responsibilities for the care, maintenance and improvements on the farm and the productive usage of agricultural land which can only be done with permission of the Khomas Regional council.

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