President Hage Geingob has strongly condemned the deplorable living conditions of workers at Komsberg grape farm at Aussenkehr in the //Karas Region.
Workers at Farm Komsberg live in reed houses along the banks of a tributary that connects with the Orange River along the Namibia-South Africa border. Many of their reed huts were swept away by heavy rains in recent weeks that also killed a three-year-old girl.
Speaking during a consultative meeting with a delegation of the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) at State House on Tuesday, Geingob appealed to farmers to provide decent housing to farmworkers, who are often accommodated in rudimentary huts and shacks.
“Look at what is happening in the south, a lucrative grape farming company that is exporting grapes to Europe and yet they have grass houses [for their workers],” he said, adding that this is not the way people should live in an independent country, regarded as upper middle income.
“I’m appealing to all farmers to at least be good to their farmworkers and to give them decent shelter, a place to sleep, a place to wash,” he added.
On his part, NNFU president Tobias Emvula requested government institutions – hostels, hospitals, military barracks and prisons – to procure a certain portion of their beef from the producers in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs).
“NCA beef cannot enter lucrative markets in Europe, but their beef is still fit for human consumption, hence our appeal to government to change procurement policies in their favour,” he said.
Prime Minister Saara Kuungongelwa Amadhila said the procurement law was recently overhauled.
“In terms of the new law as part of optimising support for government procurement in the Namibian economy it is a requirement that products supplied to government are sourced from Namibia to the extent possible,” she said, adding that it is up to the locals to organise themselves.
Emvula also expressed concern about racial divisions within the farming sector. “As NNFU we represent the predominantly non-white community and the NAU enjoys a predominantly white membership,” he said. This division fragments the voice of farmers and presents a challenge to the government as it has to deal with two seemingly competing stakeholders, who should be representing the same community, he said.
“Our belief is that farmers are just farmers, regardless whether they are white or not, commercial or communal,” he added.