Aroab — Residents from the Aroab community, southeast of Keetmanshoop staged a peaceful demonstration earlier this week, in their quest to access land for both framing and housing purposes.
Reading the petition, spokesperson Benjamin van Staden (59) said the impact of the coronavirus made their living conditions extremely harsh.
“We, as members of the Aroab Small Livestock Farmers Association have requested the village council previously to allocate part of the land in town to us, as the less fortunate in order to address our housing and grazing challenges, but are still waiting on them,” he explained.
The spokesperson added that it is indeed very sad that the political leadership is ignoring their pleas. “Our population has grown in numbers and the houses provided cannot accommodate us all anymore, resulting in more than 20 people forced to share a one-bedroom house in some instances, which is a very high health risk, especially when seen in the light of Covid˗19,” he said.
Van Staden continued that they want part of the land lying idle on the outskirts of town to erect some shacks as a means to relieve the accommodation burden experienced.
“If council keeps on ignoring our pleas, we are intending to put up structures illegally as a way of demonstrating our desperation,” he said.
In terms of a lack of grazing, the chairperson of the Aroab Small Livestock Farmers Association explained to New Era that the council only allocated five hectares of the 10 hectares unutilised portion of land suitable for livestock on the outskirts of the village.
“The other 50% of the land is now lying idle whilst we can no longer accommodate our expanding livestock numbers, which now resulted in small scale farmers fighting over grazing land,” he said.
Van Staden also said wild animals are now grazing on the other five hectares of unoccupied land, which is a danger to their livestock.
“On top of all our challenges, the council now wants us to pay rent for land originally belonging to our ancestors,” he added. The spokesperson also said they resolved not to pay any rent until their concerns have been addressed by council.
The small stock farmer informed this publication that Lucia Basson, former //Kharas governor addressed them in 2019 on their challenges and directed the council to allocate more land to them and furthermore exempted them from paying rent for the land they are now farming on.
“Till today, council did not carry out this directive and instead informed us that they never received such communication from Basson,” he said.
The group gave council seven days to respond to their petition as they might consider occupying the land without permission if their pleas are ignored.
Aroab village Council’s management committee deputy chairperson, Andrew de Jay promised to forward the petition to the appropriate personnel and that feedback will be provided accordingly.
Approached for comment, Keetmanshoop Rural constituency councillor, Gerrit Witbooi said he was also part of the concerned group when Basson visited the farmers in 2019 and that the directive was indeed issued.
“The most amicable way to solve this issue now is for the village council to approach my office so that the respective parties can collectively take it up with the region’s political leadership,” he suggested.