Growing resistance to Otjinene San project

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WINDHOEK – An apparent increased HIV/AIDS infection rate, water use conflict and livestock theft are some of the reasons three villages in the Otjinene Constituency are opposing government’s plans to set up a mega project to resettle San people.

Villagers from Otjomunguindi, Otumumbonde and Ondjora have vehemently opposed government’s plans to set up a massive San community project but government remains steadfast the project will continue as planned and accused those opposing the project of not wanting to live with the San people.

The communities claim the presence of the project will also have negative impacts on their livelihoods such a loss of land, reduced grazing, and increased livestock theft due to increased human presence.

Some community members have even gone as far as blocking construction workers from collecting water from the community borehole. They also claim government has not consulted them before embarking on the planned San project.

The Maharero Royal House Traditional Authority, under which the villages fall, has already given government the green light to set up the project.

“As per the letter signed by senior traditional councillor for Maharero Royal House Traditional Authority, Mr Katjiuano, and which was presented at the meeting of 09/02/2015, the Maharero Royal House Traditional Authority has granted permission to occupy land to the office of the deputy prime minister,” stated Chief Tjinaani Maharero.

Omaheke Governor Festus Ueitele yesterday lashed at those opposing the project claiming the communities who are up in arms simply do not want to live with San people.

“I know this is coming from a few individuals who are trying to instigate others. Some of them have thousands of hectares of land and therefore are only protecting their own interests and not those of the communities as they claim. The bottom line here is that the people in Ondjora do not want to live with the San people,” stated an irate Ueitele.

“The borehole they are claiming is theirs was put up by government and it will be used for all State purposes,” further stated the regional governor.

The governor further quashed claims government has not consulted the communities before embarking on the project. “Several meetings were held and I even attended some of them where we consulted community members. It is impossible for a responsible government like ours to just get up and invade people’s areas without consultation,” he said.

Ueitele warned community members, who are blocking those clearing the land on which the project will be constructed, to stop doing so, adding that: “Those who break the country’s laws will be dealt with because I have already instructed the police to be on full alert.
“It is high time we learn to live with each other in this country.”

The community proposed the project should be revisited and be relocated elsewhere “given the extent of the San project, the land it will enclose, and the deprivation it will cause the local communities”.

It also says community involvement and participation should be a priority in matters affecting their land use and livelihoods.

The community also blames the Maharero Royal House for allocating land without taking the needs of the community into consideration.

The royal house earlier this month granted permission to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to occupy the land.

Maharero said in a letter written to the community that the project will go ahead without doubt or objection.

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