Cattle Farmers Forced to Leave New Resettlement Farm

TWO farmers, who between them own more than 500 cattle, and nearly as many other livestock such as goats, sheep, donkeys and horses, were evicted from a farm, government recently bought for resettlement purposes between Karibib and Otjimbingwe.

The 15 000-hectare Farm ‘Okongava Ost’, which was owned by former Windhoek Mayor Dr Bjoumlrn Graf Finck von Finckenstein was bought by government about a month ago.

The two farmers, Nelson Kavita and Hans Puuahee, who are also cousins, claim they have ties to the farm dating back about 25 years when Kavita’s father, Ben Twahimwa, worked for the Von Finckensteins, and was also allowed to keep cattle on the farm. Twahimwa died last year, but the two cousins continued to farm on Okongava Ost.

Now, within a matter of a few weeks, they claim, they had to vacate the farm: lock, stock and barrel.

The result is that they and their families (including minor children) belongings and nearly 1 000 animals have moved next to the road reserve between Karibib and Otjimbingwe. Makeshift kraals had to be erected to ensure animals do not stray, injure themselves or get stolen. Kavita opened a case with the Karibib police on Sunday after two of their cows were stolen and slaughtered.

Not only is this discomforting to the farmers, but it is also stressful to the animals and a danger to road users. What makes it even more difficult is that the animals apparently break out and return to the farm they are familiar with.

“We understand the need for resettlement but the time we were given to move out was too short where must we take these animals?” asked Kavita.

He said government could have allowed them to stay on the farm until the resettlement process is concluded.

They could stay there and also apply for resettlement and if they are successful, that would be to their aantage, and if not, then at least they would have had time to make other plans.

Kavita and Puuahee agree that there was no contract between them and Von Finckenstein regarding their stay on the farm and therefore they “respected” the order to vacate. However, they need more time to do so.

Von Finckenstein told The Namibian that the sale transaction could only be concluded with government once the farm was vacant. He agreed that there were no contracts between him and the two farmers and that he “helped them out during periods of drought” to keep the animals on the farm.

“It’s also not true that Kavita and Puuahee were informed to leave at short notice. When their father died last year, I informed them to vacate,” von Finckenstein said.

He said there should be no serious problems keeping the animals in the road reserve until government informs the farmers what to do because there was enough pasture due to the good rains.

“The land will be inspected and government wants the land vacant for resettlement,” he said.

Erongo Governor Cleophas Mutjavikua, who is also the chairman of the regional resettlement committee, said he was aware of the situation.

“Normally when government buys farms, those people who have been staying on the farm should vacate before government occupies such a farm and decide what kind of resettlement it can support. Those people (Kavita and Puuahee) were supposed to vacate the farm and they were not part of the farming business of Dr von Finckenstein. They were just there, and there was no agreement with them. That is the situation,” said Mutjavikua.

He said his office was open to discuss the problem, “however, we believe getting them out of the farm is the best way to go about it.”

Source : The Namibian