A FAMILY has become destitute after government bought a farm in the Maltahöhe district on which they had lived and worked for more than 24 years.

They have been living in a corrugated iron zinc shack on the roadside about 15 kilometres from Maltahöhe with their 148 small livestock, four horses, 11 cattle and five donkeys since the start of April this year.

Sila Swartbooi (53) says they have become destitute after government bought farm Namseb, where they have worked and lived, in 2008.

“We have worked and lived on the farms our employer had been leasing. All these farms were bought by government for resettlement purposes,” she noted.

Swartbooi said the family uses a donkey cart every second day to collect potable water at Maltahöhe, while their animals survive by drinking water from earth dams and grazing along the road.

“Promises by the Hardap leadership that those living on the townlands will receive preferential treatment for resettlement on farm Daweb gave us hope, but to my disappointment, my name did not appear on the list of resettled farmers although it was announced over the radio that I was one of the beneficiaries,” the farmer stated.

The family, she added, then moved onto a portion of the farming unit at farm Daweb with the permission of Fritz Haksteen, to whom the unit was allocated.

However, Haksteen was forced to evict them after the Hardap Land Resettlement Allocation Committee’s chairperson governor Esme Isaack wrote to Haksteen on 18 September 2015, threatening to withdraw his farming unity if he continued to illegaly sub−lease grazing land.

“We stayed on for a few months, but when pressure mounted for Haksteen to evict us, we moved out to the roadside,” Swartbooi said, adding that she has been applying to be resettled on a government farm without success.

The family’s former employer Piet Bamm gave a recommendation in support of the family’s application for a resettlement farm, stating that Swartbooi’s husband Hendrik is a “real farmer by heart and soul, and has nowhere to go”.

“He is completely at your mercy,” Bamm pleaded in the letter, saying it is not possible for him to take the family with him to the 900−hectare land he is now leasing in the Rehoboth area because “ logistically, it does not make sense”.

The Roads Authority served the family with a notice to remove their animals and the structure they have illegally put up from the road reserve last week, but Swartbooi vowed to stay put, come hell or high water.

“I am a Namibian by birth, born in this area and grew up here. Why am I overlooked when it comes to resettlement, while people coming from the North get land?” the farmer said angrily.

“The government preaches they have declared war against poverty, but this landlessness is also making us poor,” Swartbooi remarked.

Isaack confirmed last week that Haksteen was asked to stop subleasing grazing land to Swartbooi without permission.

“We just applied the law that prohibits subleasing,” she said.

She, however, said she was not aware that the family is squatting by the roadside.

“This is news to me. I will look into their plight to see whether I can address the situation.” she said.

Original source

• Adverse possession
• Advocacy
• ESC rights
• Farmers/Peasants
• Forced evictions
• Homeless
• Housing rights
• International
• Land rights
• Security of tenure