Omaheke Regional Governor Festus Ueitele appeared disturbed by suggestions he had a hand in the perpetual benefiting of his relatives from government’s resettlement programme, but strongly defended the decision to give a farm to his wife, insisting she is no less Namibian.
Ueitele’s wife Uapeua, his brother Isak, as well as brother-in-law Martin Shimakeleni are all beneficiaries of government’s resettlement programme.
The governor is the current chairperson of the regional resettlement committee, but insisted he was never involved in approving applications of his relatives.
In fact, he said, his wife is the only one among the lot who benefited while Ueitele was chairman of the resettlement committee, but he had recused himself from the approval process.
“When Shimakeleni and my brother Isak got resettled I was just an ordinary environmental health officer in the Ministry of Health and a Swapo coordinator,” he told New Era yesterday.
“Honourable Laura Mcleod-Katjirua was governor and chairperson of the regional resettlement committee when those two received their farms.
“Shimakeleni fought for this country and it was because of that war veteran status that he was resettled in 2002.
“My brother was resettled maybe two years later, around 2004. I was not involved in their approval in any way,” Ueitele, who has been governor of Omaheke since 2013, said.
He, however, strongly defended the decision to resettle his wife, saying she too is Namibian.
“She met all requirements, including being Namibian. I was not around when the decision to resettle her was made, but even if I was around I wouldn’t have joined that meeting. It’s a simple corporate governance requirement of government,” the governor said.
The Ministry of Land Reform says there was nothing sinister about the manner in which people related to the governor of Omaheke were resettled.
Ministry officials also denied claims that resettlement farms only benefit the elite and individuals linked to employees in the ministry. It says the farms are available for all Namibian applicants.
This followed confirmation that the deputy director of land reform in //Karas Region, Albertus Engelbrecht, was among the latest beneficiaries resettled on government-owned farms.
Engelbrecht got 5 422 hectares on Farm Nunniboom in the Hardap Region.
Uapeua Ueitele, the Omaheke governor’s wife, was resettled on 2 003 hectares on Farm Bospoort in the Omaheke Region.
The governor’s brother, Isak Ueitele, a school inspector in Omaheke, was resettled at Farm Koukurus in that region.
The governor’s brother-in-law, Martin Shimakeleni, who is married to the governor’s sister, was resettled at Farm Jaagboom in the Kalahari Constituency of Omaheke Region.
Speaking to New Era yesterday, ministry spokesperson Chrispin Matongela said he has noted with grave concern a trend among Namibians, who have taken to social media and newspapers to attack the criteria being used for resettlement.
“When we’re selecting beneficiaries we don’t say you are a minister, director or a lawyer. In fact, we don’t check people’s bank accounts. All we look at is that you are Namibian and you meet the required qualifying criteria,” he noted.
Among those criteria, Matongela said, is the applicant’s agricultural background, age, current agricultural annual income and number of livestock.
Matongela said the ministry works according the the resettlement criteria set out in the national land policy and the national resettlement policy, which list a range of groups that should benefit from the programme.
He dismissed claims by some community members who believe that only people in the central areas are being resettled, saying people as far as the Zambezi, Kavango East and Kunene regions have also benefited from the resettlement process.
“If you look into our two latest resettlement announcements in newspapers you will find out that over seventy percent of those resettled are all from other regions,” he said.