Omatjete saga continues

23 Jun 2013 05:50
SWAKOPMUND, 23 JUN (NAMPA) - Farmers illegally occupying farms in the Omatjete communal area have formed a new ?community committee? to contest the eviction order granted to the Zeraeua Traditional Authority earlier this month.
On 06 June this year, the High Court ruled in favour of the Zeraeua Traditional Authority (ZTA) by granting them an interim eviction order against the illegal settlers occupying communal land handed over to the authority by the Government in May.
The three farms in the Omatjete communal area on which the farmers have illegally settled with their animals have a combined size of 13 917. 107 hectares.
The land was handed over to the ZTA by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement on 02 May this year to expand the boundaries of the Omatjete communal area, so that it can sustainably accommodate the livelihood needs of the traditional communities residing there.
There are however two different views about the matter: some people are of the opinion that the land should be used to expand the communal area, while others want the farms to serve as resettlement land.
The people of Omatjete are divided into two groups, stemming from division within the Zaraeua traditional leadership of that area.
One group is led by Chief Manasse Zeraeua, while the other follows Chief Raphael Hijangungo Kapia. Both are leaders of the same Zeraeua Traditional Authority.
It appears that the two chiefs representing the Zeraeua Traditional Authority are pulling in opposite directions as regards plans for the usage of the Government-acquired farming land.
Amidst that royal push-and-pull, some farmers of Omatjete who are hard-hit by the drought allegedly decided to invade the farms and settled there without following the proper procedures.
The proper procedures, according to a directive from the Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Alpheus !Naruseb, are that farmers should first seek the approval of the ZTA before settling on such farms.
Some of the alleged illegal farmers had however reportedly been occupying the land even before Government handed it over to the traditional authority.
As a result, a request was made by the ZTA to the alleged land invaders to vacate the farms, but when this request was ignored, Chief Manasse Zeraeua approached the courts with an application to have them removed.
Speaking to Nampa during a telephonic interview on Thursday, a member of the newly formed committee, John Tjirare indicated that the committee was formed after the ZTA started an alleged ?campaign of terror?.
He said after the High Court ruled in favour of the ZTA, locks were placed on the gates and fences of the three farms.
Tjirare claimed that this will result in animals starving and dying of thirst.
On 19 June 2013, a request was put to the ZTA by the newly formed community committee that the gates be opened to allow the free movement of the cattle, but this request was apparently turned down.
Tjirare further explained that when the farms were handed over to the ZTA, the authority reportedly promised that it would call a community meeting where a committee representing all community stakeholders would be elected to guide the ZTA in the process of resettling people on the farms.
?Up until now, no such meeting has taken place. This resulted in the community establishing its own committee which will serve as a voice that will liaise with the ZTA regarding the formulation and execution for the utilisation of these farms,? Tjirare stated, adding that a request put forward by the newly formed committee to allow their animals to graze on the land until the next rainy season was discarded by the ZTA
He noted that the committee intends on returning to the High Court on 10 July to argue why the order should not be made final, as well as to continue engaging the ZTA on the matter.
Approached for comment, ZTA spokesperson Fabianus Uaseuapuani however informed Nampa that only some of the community members are part of this new committee.
He also said the ZTA has formed a committee which was set to register community members as from Friday (21 June) to be accommodated on the communal land.
With regards to the matter of locks being placed on the fences, he stated that the gates of the communal farms are opened on a daily basis, and yet farmers continue to cut fences illegally to allow their animals back onto the land.
He said the ZTA has now made it easy for the farmers to apply for the resettlement process by allowing 110 registered farmers with 60 heads of registered cattle each to occupy the land.
Uaseuapuani explained that the farmers should first move from the land and then apply to be resettled. Once their application is successful, they will be allowed to move their cattle back onto the land.