30 Sep 2013 07:10
By Paulus Shiku
AUS, 30 SEP (NAMPA) - Tribalism and disagreements between the community and the management of the Aus Community Conservation Trust (ACCT) is said to be to blame for the slow progress of a community garden here.
In April this year, the Trust decided to convene a meeting to discuss how the vegetable garden can be improved.
At that meeting, some members involved in the project were removed and replaced with new members who would be involved in the running of the garden.
Situated seven kilometres east of the Aus settlement in the //Karas Region, the garden currently contains cabbage, spinach and onions, but these have not been harvested and sold or donated to community members as was the intention when the garden was started.
Five residents spoke to Nampa at the settlement on Thursday, and placed the blame squarely at the feet of ACCT management members Titus Plaatjies and John Mayumbelo.
Plaatjies is in charge of the garden, and he is being accused of making tribalistic remarks against community members who worked in the garden.
Petrus Shimbashike, Abraham Kamakuva, and Hendrina Kamanda are some of the people who were involved in starting the project some three years ago, and all of them now allege that they were removed from the project because they are not Nama people.
They claim that the Trust wanted Nama people to take over the garden as they felt only Ovambo people were benefiting, but according to Shimbashike there were four Namas and five Ovambos working on the project.
Apart from those who claim to have been removed and those who lost interest due to disagreements, others are said to have left the project for formal jobs.
The three noted that when they worked on the garden, they gave vegetables away to elderly people in the community, but now that they have been removed and allegedly replaced by Nama people, the project has come to a stand-still as the new members allegedly just harvest vegetables for their own families.
Shimbashike said after he realised that those who took over the garden are abandoning it, he instructed Kamakuva to start irrigating the vegetables, although he, Kamakuva, was barred from entering the garden.
Shimbashike claimed that Plaatjies shouted at him on two separate occasions, allegedly telling him that he does not want Ovambo people at Aus.
He said it one day in Aus and repeated it again in Keetmanshoop; I have witnesses. It pains me to see the project which I started dying. I am being blamed for starting something and not taking good care of it, but they messed up everything, he stated.
He further said the Trust at some point suggested that the garden be divided into two with one plot apparently being for the Nama people and one for Ovam people, but this was objected to.
On his part, Kamakuva said he just waters the vegetables but nobody harvests and sells or give to community members. The few people who go there just take vegetables, but do not say where they take them to, he indicated.
Backing up claims made by Shimbashike, Kamanda said some community members also shouted at her while she was involved in the garden, saying they must not plant sorghum in the garden because it is Namaland.
I am really hurt by the fact that something which was working very well is disturbed by tribalism. There was a time we planted sorghum and people told us that we are dirtying their land by planting sorghum, she said.
Another resident, Denver Vlees, also confirmed that he was part of the garden but said when some people were removed from the project, he started losing interest.
We started the project but I quit when these conflicts started. People are not benefiting anymore so why should I stay in such a project? he said.
Contacted for comment, Plaatjies said allegations that the garden only benefits some people and that Ovambo people were removed in order to be replaced with Nama people, are not true.
He hit back at Shimbashike by saying he called me a Bushman first before I called him a Wambo. We are brothers and are not supposed to call each other names.
Contradicting the claims, Plaatjies stated that the trust wanted to improve the garden because it was not doing well at that time, hence the decision to call everyone involved in the project together and select new people to get involved.
I did not put anyone out of that garden, Shimbashike may believe so but it is not true, he said.
Mayumbelo also shot down allegations that certain people were removed as a result of tribalism, and echoed Plaatjies sentiments that the garden was not working well at the time, hence the decision to call a meeting to select new members.
He charged that some people did not show up for a meeting and the selection was only made out of those present.
I advised Plaatjies and Shimbashike to put their differences aside and work for the betterment of the garden. We are all Namibians and when we choose people for work we look at capabilities, not race. No one was stopped from going to the garden. The trust did not impose anything on the community members, but just tried to help, he said.
Both Mayumbelo and Plaatjies also rejected claims that some people just harvest the vegetables for their own families, saying they have never seen anyone doing so.
They admitted that the vegetables have not been harvested for some months now as no one has had the time to do so, but noted that plans are underway to mobilise the community and encourage them to become fully committed to the garden.