23 February 2018

Namibia: Residents Fear Farm Murders Will Scuttle Job Prospects

UNEMPLOYED residents of Koës in the //Karas region fear that the recent double murder of an elderly farming couple will negatively affect their chances of getting jobs in the area.

Julius Frederick Arndt (40), Andries Afrikaner (37) and Johannes Christiaan (36) were arrested in connection with the killings of Giel and Sarie Botma on their farm near Koës early this month.

Botma died of a gunshot wound to the head, while his wife was strangled.

The three suspects were remanded in police custody until their next court appearance on 23 April.

A cellphone text message sent by one farmer to job-seeker Lukas Jahr sparked the fears.

In the text message shown to The Namibian, the farmer responded: "We farmers will no longer employ people to be murdered".

Jahr had enquired about resuming a fencing job he had been busy with before Christmas.

Another commercial farmer who was interested in hiring him also withdrew the job offer after the farm killings, Jahr added.

"None of those implicated in the murders have ever worked on a farm. Because of their misdeeds, many of us who have been making a living as farmworkers must now remain unemployed," he stated.

Jahr warned that the situation could push some unemployed locals into crime.

Speculation was also rife among residents who spoke to The Namibian that some farmers dismissed their workers after the couple's murder.

But The Namibian was unable to confirm this.

Another resident said farmers have "branded" Koës residents as murderers, and were reluctant to recruit anyone from the village.

This situation now poses the risk of increasing the already high unemployment rate at the village.

"We're also scared to go and collect firewood in corridors bordering commercial farms because farmers may regard us as intruders, and attack us," the resident added.

When approached for comment, Koës Farmers Association chairperson Werdus Smith dismissed the claims as "unconstitutional without any facts".

"I do not think there will be evidence to substantiate their claims," he said.

Smith stressed that farmers have good working relations with the community of Koës, and would not turn their backs on them by refusing them jobs now.

"Yes, farmers are now paranoid over their safety on farms after the farm killings. There may be some few cases, but I doubt it because of the good relations existing between the farmers and the community," he noted.

However, Smith was quick to point out that there may be some cases where delinquent workers may have been given their marching orders.

//Karas police regional commander, deputy commissioner Rudolf Isaak yesterday said no cases of threats against any farmer have been reported.

Owing to the low level of stock theft in the area, there is no disharmony between the Koës residents and farmers, he added.


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