Namibia: Aussenkehr Residents Dig in

RESIDENTS of a settlement at Aussenkehr in //Kharas region have vowed to stay put until an amicable solution has been found between themselves, the government and Aussenkehr Farms management.

The residents were notified in January this year to vacate the land adjacent to Spar complex by the end of March to make way for the expansion of the Aussenkehr mall which houses retail shops such as Beaver Canoe, Pep, Furnmart as well as FNB and Standard Bank.

Lewis and Ackermans also want to open shops at Aussenkehr Mall while Shell plans opening a fuel station and some people have to be moved elsewhere.

About 400 people from 39-households, nine shebeens, three bars, and three tuck shops are affected.

An Aussenkehr management representative Ephraim Shimbuli met the farm workers on Sunday to discuss the eviction. The residents have now been given until 31 May to leave the area.

They however maintain that management has not answered them on compensation demands and where they would go to.

They asked management for compensation for the structures to be demolished, the foundations they must dig again and for the property they lose with every move, including where they will go.

Shimbuli could not answer the workers as he had no mandate to do so and the meeting ended in a deadlock.

Johannes Lengi, a resident, said this is the third time they are moving in about 10 years. Every time the landlord develops a new business or expands grape fields they must move. Therefore unless they are moving to a permanent place, they are not willing to leave.

"These relocations have pushed us closer and closer to the river. We have children and it is dangerous there. One time we were forced to move in with other families. These are reed houses and when fires break out, up to 30 homes burn down." said Lengi.

Aussenkehr is a private grape farm on the banks of the Orange River owned and managed by Dusan Vasiljevich. It is also home to multiple grape companies who employ more than 12 000 people permanently and more than 17 000 during harvest season.

These farmers, the backbone of the multimillion-dollar export grape industry have, since grape farming started in 1995, lived in squalor in reed or corrugated zinc shacks without potable water, toilet facilities, sewerage or electricity on the banks of the Orange River.

About 10 years ago Vasiljevich donated 600-hectares to the government to build decent housing for people living on the farm.

The regional councillor for Karasberg West, Taimy Kanyemba confirmed the workers have not moved.

She said she met Aussenkehr Farms management on Sunday to find the way forward.

"I was at Aussenkehr because I wanted to meet the farm management to at least give the government time to bring services to Newtown before the people can move there. The infrastructure government put up there was vandalised," said Kanyemba.

She said the regional council cannot allow people to move to a place where the provision of services is not complete and therefore Aussenkehr management must suspend the evictions.

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