Omaheke’s Smoking Gun

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There must be a smoking gun in recent suggestions that the Omaheke Resettlement Programme could be so skewed and mismanaged that it is in tatters in terms of its credibility. Adding to this notion is the deafening silence from those responsible for running the programme. So far, these officials have failed to clear the air by coming clean about what exactly is happening.

Legitimate inquiries by the media about the names of members of the local Regional Resettlement Committee were met with total disdain by the high offices in Omaheke.

The conduct of these officials leaves much to be desired. They are behaving as if the public owes them something and that no one should dare to question the way they are running the resettlement programme.

It is obvious that some officials in the Omaheke Region have a lot to hide about the goings-on in the resettlement programme. Sections of the community in Omaheke feel that the resettlement programme has been mismanaged.

They include Chief Stephanus Gariseb of the #Obani people who says he is still not satisfied with the fairness of the resettlement programme in his region. The people of Omaheke have the right to feel unhappy and to ask questions about the way the programme is being managed because the land in question is theirs. The land that is being redistributed does not belong to the Resettlement Committee or Government for that matter. It is the people’s. Government or the State is only the custodian of the land.

The committee is simply a facilitator and its members mere messengers or servants of the people and not landlords, hence they are answerable to the public. They need not behave as if they own the land and are doing those being resettled a favour.

Besides, Omaheke may be just the tip of the iceberg. Other regions may be afflicted as well.

The story of the two Enkali brothers that we published this week smacks of a bad deal gone sour and is not an isolated one.

An official of the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement gave part of his resettlement farm to the two Enkali brothers for farming use.

What is not clear though is at what price. It is inconceivable that the official would have given part of the farm to the two men for nothing. After all, there are no free lunches in this world.

But that is besides the point. The most important issue here is that the official was resettled on the farm Schellenberg together with three other people. Each of the three people got land equivalent to two camps whose actual sizes we do not know. We have tried to verify this with the officials concerned but to no avail. The official from Lands owns 10 camps on the same farm. Again, we do not know the size of his land in hectare terms. What we know is his stock. He has 11 head of cattle and between 30 and 40 goats. He has farmed here for more than five years.

One of the conditions for being resettled is that the prospective candidate must show he or she is engaged in serious farming by the second year. Yet, in his fifth year, this official has only 11 cattle. Going by the number of camps that he has, there seems to be a disproportionate allocation of land here and someone needs to explain that.

It is also being alleged that most, if not all Lands officials at Omaheke, have been resettled. Not only that, many people who work for the ministry have resettlement farms. Again, there is nothing wrong with resettling them. They are landless Namibians. But there is an issue of ethics here. For instance, who processes these official applications of their immediate relatives and what measures are there to ensure that they do not engage in ‘application fixing’? Is there a watchdog really?

Another question the ministry needs to clarify is whether Lands officials are there to primarily serve members of the public, or help themselves first.

What is of concern is that the resettlement process seems to be shrouded in secrecy. This provides room for abuse. The resettlement process needs to be above board from the moment people submit their applications to the end.

This means that well refined criteria are needed for resettlement. We cannot have a free-for-all type situation. There have to be requirements and above all, the process has to be transparent at all times. Those in charge of the programme must be accountable and responsive when there are questions to be answered. They must not hide behind their big titles and positions because they are servants of the people, to quote President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

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