THE Land Reform Ministry is embroiled in a fresh controversy, after it emerged this week that it had served 28 families with evictions letters, ordering them to vacate a farm near Otjimbingwe, which has now been earmarked for a lithium mining operation.
According documents in possession of Confidente, the farm in question – Okongava No.72 – had previously been promised to the Otjimbingwe residents, so that they can expand the boundaries of the village.
The farm measures 15 000 hectares, and has now been allocated to !Huni-/ Urib Investments (PTY), which has applied for an Environmental Clearance Certificate, in order to mine for lithium and other minerals.
However, the community is not taking this lying down, and will now approach President Hage Geingob to stop the evictions.
They are also demanding that Geingob call Land Reform Minister, Utoni Nujoma, to order.
In a document dated August 2015, Nujoma says that his ministry is finalising the technicalities, in order to incorporate the farm into Otjimbingwe and expand the communal area.
The farm was bought by government through its settlement programme.
If Nujoma’s office goes ahead with the planned evictions, it will also mean that it will ignore a 2014 directive by his predecessor, Alpheus !Naruseb, who directed that the farm should be made available for the expansion of Otjimbingwe.
At the time, !Naruseb was of the opinion that this would be important for improving the living standards of the rural population, and will also contribute to poverty alleviation.
According to the Tsoaxudaman Traditional Authority, which resettled the 28 families on the farm, they were shocked when they were recently handed eviction letters, signed by a government attorney.
Traditional authority senior councillor, Jonathan Neumbo, told Confidente that Nujoma’s office had refused to officially hand over the farm.
“We have agreements and other communication, even with the (Erongo) governor’s office, that the farm is under the traditional authority, and that it is the authority that is responsible for identifying people to be resettled,” Neumbo said.
“The only outstanding thing is the official handover, and I do not know why they have not done this yet.
“In our discussions, we agreed that the people are vandalising the farm, and we resolved that we will resettle the people there, while we are waiting for the official handover. We did this with the understanding that farm was already ours, it was just the paperwork that was outstanding.”
Neumbo swore to fight tooth and nail against the evictions, saying he will approach the highest offices in the country.
Erongo Regional Governor, Cleophas Mutjavikua, who in the past has pleaded with Geingob to expand the communal area, said Neumbo had no right to resettle the 28 families.
“If you are not given an official handover, how do you resettle people there?” questioned Mutjavikua.
“They were not given the farm legally and they were resettling people, without following the right procedures, and they did not have criteria for resettling these people,” the governor said.
“He was just calling people from the streets and resettling them, without any due process.”
He added that a lot of work goes into adding a farm to a communal area.
“There is deregistration from commercial to communal land, and gazetting, as well as degazetting. He put the whole programme of expanding communal land in jeopardy.”
Asked why the farm is now earmarked for mining, Mutjavikua said that this was not the issue.
“That is a huge farm and lithium mining will maybe take place at one place, an equivalent of two soccer fields. If there is lithium it should be mined.”
Last week Confidente reported that Nujoma had also ignored recommendations by National Assembly Speaker, Peter Katjavivi, and Environment and Tourism Minister, Pohamba Shifeta, when he failed to favourably consider the Ovitoto community’s proposal to establish a conservancy, before eventually allocating two farms to a private company.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015