Reverend Josef Shikuma, a pastor at Eheke Lutheran Church in Omusati Region, caused consternation after he allegedly leased out his communal land at Omakuku village to Chinese nationals.
New Era visited the area last week and found the Chinese cultivating vegetables and maize on the land, using water from the nearby NamWater canal.
This development has sparked debate on whether foreign nationals should be allowed to farm at that level, or reserve it for the locals only.
Some people from the village work in the field for the Chinese and are allegedly paid low salaries.
New Era could not establish for how much the one Chinese national, who is only known as Davy, is leasing the mahangu field – because both Shikuma (the pastor) and Davy refused to disclose the information.
Newly elected councillor for Outapi Constituency Fillemon Shikwambi said the Chinese nationals at Omakuku are in unfair competition with locals.
Shikwambi said the Chinese are welcome in Namibia but must not be allowed to farm at that level and compete with local subsistence farmers, who also sell their surplus for an extra income.
“If these people plant maize and vegetables that our own people also plant, then they are capable of planting mahangu so that our people can buy from them. They are killing the market of our people,” said Shikwambi.
Shikwambi further pointed out that the same Chinese are now going to Etunda irrigation projects at Epalela to get products and sell at very cheap prices, competing with the local people that are looking to earn their bread.
“Imagine if these people can go to Etunda to buy things in bulk and sell to our people, instead of our people selling to them, then this is killing income streams for our people,” Shikwambi alluded.
“Some of our people are lazy to work hard and now Chinese are using the opportunity to use them for their own benefit,” he said.
He said if Chinese are willing to develop the country they are supposed to dig an earth dam that they can use to irrigate their plants so that local people can benefit too.
“Now these people are using free water and land so that they will sell their products to their fellow Chinese in Oshikango, which is unacceptable,” said Shikwambi.
Land activist and co-founder of Affirmative Repositioning Job Amupanda, who also visited the Omakuku field recently, said Namibia should not allow things of that nature to continue.
“It is unacceptable for the Chinese to produce things that they don’t sell to local people, but send it to their fellow Chinese at Oshikango to make a profit, while they are using free water and free land,” Amupanda said.
The Chinese farmers refused to comment when New Era visited their field last week.