Minority San Face Eviction

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By William Mbangula Oshivelo Members of the minority San community at Oshivelo are landless and facing an uphill battle for economic and social survival. About 2 000 San people find themselves between a rock and a hard place in their impoverished triangle of destitution. They are threatened for being illegally on a piece of land they have occupied for many years. The portion of land where they live is earmarked for a police housing project to be funded by the Ministry of Safety and Security. Their squatter camp is surrounded by government-owned land along the north and east and a private farm in the south and west. Faced with possible eviction, in order to make way for the government housing project, the community is left with limited options – such as just having to wait indefinitely for the government’s resettlement programme to reach them, or to acquire land elsewhere. As a result of overcrowding, residents of this squatter camp cannot survive or rely on subsistence farming like all other rural communities, because they do not have any piece of traditional land they can call their own. According to a member of the Camp Development Committee, Andries Komab, the community is pleading for the sustainable development and upliftment of their livelihood as is enjoyed by many Namibians. Komab explained that due to the high rate of illiteracy among his community, employment opportunities, job creation and self-employment remain difficult to achieve. Apart from this, the government and other stakeholders in economic and social development are being accused of having done nothing to make the San community productive citizens. He said the councillor of Guinas, Isaac Gomachab, does not visit them to familiarise himself with the situation on the ground and is only seen during election campaigns. Komab also complained about drought relief food that is not distributed regularly and only given to a select few, while all the people in the squatter camp are vulnerable and poor. New Ea could not get hold of the councillor because he was attending a funeral. However, the chief administrator of the Guinas constituency Mika Alugodhi shot down the allegations of inaction, saying that plans are under way to help the community. He said the Oshikoto Regional Council is currently negotiating with the owner of the adjacent farm with sufficient land space, Jairus Shikale of the Puny Group, to find out whether he can sell it to the government to resettle the people permanently. So far the council has embarked on a project to provide sewerage and clean water to the community. On the issue of drought relief food, he said it is distributed but not regularly because all depends on the availability of resources. About 140 households receive such assistance. Alugodhi further explained that it is not true that the councillor does not visit the camp. He has been doing so on a regular basis but the problem is that it is not possible to meet each and every person when he visits the camp. A spokesperson of the San Community Development project Elvis Kauesa told New Era that his institution is working hard to seek, acquire, facilitate and manage funds in order to help uplift the living standards of the San people. Among aspects to enjoy attention in their economic and social development are integrated agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture production, community enterprises and educational projects covering HIV/Aids, early childhood development, effective parenthood, skills and youth development, and empowerment of all sections of the San community. Key priorities are mainly to generate income for the community, acquisition of land for agricultural and residential purposes, provision of decent houses, education and health facilities, nutrition and sanitation and the advancement of San culture and tradition. On culture and tradition it is said that the San people here have lost touch with their natural roots such as their own language. Instead, they have adopted the Damara/Nama language as their tribal vernacular and are also practising Oshiwambo and Afrikaans as their communication tools to be in touch with the local people. However, some of the San people have completely lost the original ties with their native tribe as they do not understand each other in their mother tongue. Said Kauesa: “The long-term objective of the project is to extend full sustainable development of commercial agricultural crop production and animal husbandry, as well as to encourage ecological cow yards, biogas plants and extended water purification systems using recycled water processing on the farm grounds.” Kauesa lauded the efforts of the Oshikoto Regional Council which is also doing its part in creating an enabling environment for poverty reduction, integration of marginalized people, promotion of education for all, foreign investment in the manufacturing industry and fostering sound food security for the local population. As part of the ongoing process of trying to bring the San people into the economic and social mainstream of the country, they have been conducting meetings with their leaders to map the way forward. Senior councillor of the San Traditional Authority Johannes Haneb, who is based at Outjo, visited the Oshivelo squatter camp last weekend where he conducted consultative meetings about the plight of his people. Oshivelo squatter camp, which is located a stone’s throw from the strategic control point dividing the communal and commercial areas and which is also the gateway to the populous North, can be seen as one of Namibia’s features of shame when it comes to real poverty. The camp is situated at the doorsteps of most visitors to the country and can be used as one of the references of neglect and marginalisation of minority groups. The people here are crammed in what they called a vierkantige hok (square cage) with traditional thatched huts, old corrugated iron sheets, papers and plastic bags where the spread of communicable diseases is very imminent. Following the absence of sanitation and recreational facilities as well as educational programmes in the squatter camp, most of the people here only indulge in alcohol abuse and other anti-social behaviour. In terms of the studies conducted recently on the minority groups, in particular the San people, it is estimated that there is a considerable number of 10 000 such people in the central northern regions.