It Never Rains but Pours for Farm Evictees

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By Wezi Tjaronda OKAHANDJA IT has been months of broken promises for the former workers of farm Otjiku, 90 km outside Okahandja, who were dumped along the roadside after being evicted last year. Promises that they would get assistance in terms of food, water, shelter and blankets have up until today remained just lip service. The last time the four households received food assistance from the government was in July last year, a few months after the farm owner, Herman Awaseb, frustrated with the former worker’s refusal to move from his property, ripped off the roof of the house in which they stayed. “They gave us maize meal and cooking oil and that was it,” says Angelika Kondiuo, who worked on the farm for 17 years until they were retrenched due to the fact that someone else had bought the farm. “All the people that were here were told about the problems that we are facing and they all promised to return with some kind of help, but up until today, we are still waiting,” said she. She added: “They have asked us a lot of things, but when they go back, there is no help.” With not much provision in terms of temporary shelter such as tents, the families have built shacks covered with black plastic sheeting, which can hardly keep away water when it rains. The only tent they received last year is not in good condition either. The persistent rains that have fallen during the last couple of days have forced the families to literally sit throughout the night and hang all their beddings and clothes the following day. While everyone has to smile over the good rains that are falling, these rains bring untold misery for the Kondiuo and Kahere families. It has been a year and some months since seven members of the families, who were employed on Farm Otjiku, were retrenched and given their severance packages. Since that time, they have lived off money they got from selling their goats, of which a few now remain. Eva Kondiuo and her daughter Maria and their children were the first ones to be evicted from the farm, while five others stayed on because their case is still pending in the Labour Court in Otjiwarongo. When the case was postponed to February, the remaining workers, who still lived on the farm were also evicted. Pleas of assistance, which were communicated through the Omatako Councillor Issaskar Kaujeua and Otjozondjupa Governor Theofilus Eiseb, say the evictees, have not yielded much fruit. “We spoke to the governor in November about our needs for tents, blankets, water and food, but up to now, we are still waiting,” said Niklaas Kondiuo. Due to the squalid conditions in which the families live, their children are perpetually having bouts of diarrhoea and colds. At least now that it has rained, the families can get water from rivers and also drive their small livestock to drink from the river. The last time they received water with the help of their councillor is four months ago. Even though they were supplied with a water tanker, lack of money to buy diesel and pay for the car that will pull the tanker, has not made the situation any easier. The goats, they say are also not allowed to enter the farm, as the owner has allegedly threatened to kill any animal, chicken or child who enters his farm. The nature of their plight is such that they have no other place to go to. While most of them were born on the farm, the others started working at Farm Otjiku at a tender age of 12 years. “We do not have anywhere else to go,” says Eva Kondiuo, adding: “We were born here, where should we go? Our parents died here and this is the only home we know.” However, depending on the outcome of the court case, Nicklaas Kondiuo, who worked on the farm for more than 20 years, does not rule out being resettled. While others fear that a new place may present more challenges than they have been facing in the last months, Nicklaas is of the view that the families would be better off with their own piece of land. Others such as Eva are preoccupied with considerations such as school going kids and their animals that matter most to them. “All these things should be looked into,” she added. But for now, the main concerns are basic needs such as water, shelter, blankets and food, without which, Kondiuo fears, “old people will die by the roadside”.