CORRECTION: Nujoma dashes hopes of Aroab farmers

08 Feb 2017 17:30pm
INSERTING 'not' in fifth last paragraph
By Patience Smith
KEETMANSHOOP, 08 FEB (NAMPA) – Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma declined a request by //Kharas Governor Lucia Basson to convert a Government-owned commercial farm into communal land to resettle a group of protesting Aroab farmers.
Basson, chairperson of the //Kharas Resettlement Committee, made a promise to the farmers early in November last year that she would help them get resettled as a group.
By then the farmers had waged public petitions and protests and grabbed land on resettlement farm Dickbusch, claiming they were left out of the resettlement programme.
The governor hoped her promise would placate the farmers and lead to their voluntarily exit from the farm which they failed to do, stating they would move only when they had real proof of resettlement.
Later that month, Basson wrote to Nujoma requesting him to turn commercial farm Witpan in the Aroab district in the Keetmanshoop Rural Constituency into communal land on which to resettle the group.
In January Nujoma responded to Basson, informing her that the ministry was unable to meet her request “due to public perception that productive agricultural farms are turned into unproductive communal land”.
The farmers currently farm on camps administered by the Aroab Village Council, under conditions they describe as “stringent and difficult”.
A key motivation of Basson’s request was that resettlement for the Aroab farmers, alongside Koës farmers in the same region, was made difficult by the fact that these groups do not reside under traditional authorities.
“They do not belong to a traditional authority, hence resettling them through the normal resettlement programme is a challenge as they score very low under the current selection criteria,” she wrote.
Nujoma said it was the ministry’s conviction that farms acquired under the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act should be allocated in accordance with its provisions.
He however added that the ministry was in the process of commissioning a review of the National Resettlement Policy of 2001, to ensure broader inclusion of different resettlement models “that could accommodate needy and landless Namibians with fewer livestock”.
Despite not being able to assist the Aroab farmers, Nujoma at the same time advised that farmers in “similar situation such as those renting from the Aroab Village Council” be given priority for resettlement.
“Such farmers should be encouraged to apply for resettlement whenever farms in areas of their preference are advertised,” he said.
Basson told Nampa on Monday that she would thus treat land applicants from the two farming communities as special cases.
“If farms are advertised and they meet the criteria, they should apply. They should bring their applications to my office and they will be treated as special cases,” she said.
The Aroab farmers on Dickbusch meanwhile were issued with eviction notices, which they indicated they would ignore.