Namibia: Pohamba Eviction, Greed and Indifference

Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba seemingly did everything by the book to evict, and dump in the middle of nowhere, 78-year-old Amanda Keirises, her frail 88-year-old husband, Alfred, and their family members.

But the elderly statesman failed abysmally on the level of humanity and leadership, showing just how unmoved members of the ruling elite have become about the plight of the people they promised milk and honey when Namibia became independent.

Pohamba could have been forgiven had he been a private citizen who bought his farm with no state assistance.

But the former head of state was minister of lands, leading reforms, and among those who criticised white landowners who treated farmworkers and their families as dispensable when their labour was no longer useful.

In fact, while minister of lands, Pohamba was an integral part of a process that would have found a solution to accommodate unwanted farmworkers when land ownership changed hands.

He was a Cabinet member when the government expropriated or considered the expropriation of white-owned farms where workers were evicted and dumped by the roadside with their families and livestock.

Pohamba’s failure as lands minister and then president to secure land tenure for the most vulnerable farmworking communities feeds a perception that the ruling elite, as well as their cronies, put in place land-reform programmes for self-enrichment.

They are unconcerned about the welfare of the poor, who suffer from colonial and other historical dispossession, and now continued marginalisation in an independent Namibia.

Amanda Keirises worked for the owner of farm Guinaspoh 1401 near Otavi. She says her employers Riennie and Ben Grobler had promised her security of tenure on the farm, but Grobler died before that could be done.

In 2002, the Groblers’ son sold the farm to the Pohambas, who reportedly did not want to take on the farmworkers, placing the Keirises clan in danger of eviction.

The Pohambas then accommodated Keirises, her daughter Annelise (60), and grandchildren until this year.

The Pohambas complained that Keirises breached their agreement regarding staying on the farm by erecting unauthorised structures. The former president was also upset that his tenants dared complain about threats of eviction to the opposition United Democratic Front and the Landless People’s Movement, which took the issue to parliament.

The actions were malicious and taking advantage of kindness, the Pohambas said.

The former president has the right to do what he wants and have who he wants on his property.

Thus, we can only take issue with the fact that politicians like him, who occupied government positions on the promise of ensuring measures to care for the vulnerable, have themselves become callous like those cruel white farmers they railed against as typical exploiters.

Worse still, Pohamba’s eviction and dumping people and their livestock in the wilderness contributes to the cynicism the public has towards the ruling elite.

Was it deliberate that Pohamba as lands minister and president did nothing to institute policies that would prevent evictions and the dumping of farmworkers because he himself (and fellow politicians) were culprits? Were they castigating “cruel white farmers” simply to get votes, but did not care about the plight of the most vulnerable among Namibia’s working class?

The examples are many. Earlier this year it was reported that prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila made a N$8,9 million profit by buying and speculating on land that was occupied by a San community in northern Namibia.

It really is difficult not to think that greed and indifference have gotten the better of too many former freedom fighters who now number among the ranks of the elite.

Pohamba owns large amounts of land across the country. This includes 13,8 hectares bought for N$14 500 near the Kavango River. The former president knows Namibians are desperate for a place to call home.

Nine years ago, Pohamba said something had to be done about the land issue.

“Otherwise, if we don’t do that, we will face a revolution. And if the revolution comes, the land will be taken over by the revolutionaries,” he said.

Someone should remind Pohamba that nothing has changed.

Whoever said the more things change, the more they stay the same, was onto something profound.

For Namibia, it’s only been 30 years since independence, and the liberators have already forgotten what they said they were fighting for.

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