CEO, councillors split Grootfontein residents

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Obrein Simasiku

Omuthiya-Tension is mounting in Grootfontein following the recent attempted land grab at Luiperdheuwel location, which sparked friction in the community with some calling for the resignation of Grootfontein chief executive officer Charles Kariko and several councillors.

A week ago a group of landless people petitioned Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shangina, seeking her immediate intervention to launch an investigation into the affairs of the municipality.

The group gave the minister until today to respond and had threatened to shut down the municipality after 20 days if nothing tangible is done to address their concerns. In their petition the group demanded the immediate removal of Kariko from his post, as well as some councillors whom they accuse of fraud, corruption, mismanagement and engaging in illegal land sales.

They alleged the council sold land worth N$30 million to Tulenga Trading Company, but that the funds never reached council coffers and remain unaccounted for. They also wanted to know what happened to the N$10 million the council received several years ago to demolish the single quarters and replace them with new houses.

However, in a bizarre turn of events another group staged a demonstration yesterday to express support for and solidarity with the embattled CEO and town councillors.

Municipal spokesperson Luke Salomo confirmed that a group of 100 demonstrators sympathetic to the CEO and the councillors handed over a petition in which they expressed their support for Kariko and the town councillors. He added that the petition noted only positive things, contrary to what the other group had presented.

A representative of the group of landless people who staged the protest against Kariko, Caroline Engelbrecht, said those sympathetic to the CEO and the councillors are trying to undermine the whole process and that some councillors had instigated their relatives to stage a sympathetic protest.

“This counter-petition is the idea of the chairperson of the management committee, Jack Tsanigab, his wife Natasha Awases and his cousin, Maggy, so that they can jeopardise our quest to receive clarity from the minister,” said Engelbrecht.

“But we’re not going to entertain any answers from the municipality, only that of the minister, because we want every little detail to be unearthed. Tsanigab is one of the councillors that has multiple plots in town and has even invaded the nearby resettlement farm and we want all this to be investigated. Yet now he is the one initiating this demonstration [in support of the councillors and CEO] using other people,” Engelbrecht alleged.

In his defence Tsanigab said the majority of residents only want peace in the town and that people should take note the land issue is a national concern and not only a concern of Grootfontein, thus people should follow right procedures.

“It was the community’s idea, not mine or my family. It’s people that want to avoid tribalism and regionalism, hence they stood up because they want peace, as Grootfontein is a peace-loving town. And indeed my family was in attendance. It cannot be denied. Churches were all present and can these also be regarded as my families? It was only the masses that felt this is not good and requested peace,” Tsanigab opined.

He further accused Engelbrecht of harbouring a personal vendetta because she was fired by the municipality and could not get the plots she wanted. “She is just trying to use people for her own benefit,” Tsanigab claimed.

Kariko and Engelbrecht have not seen eye to eye ever since 2013 when Kariko was suspended over alleged sexual harassment charges instituted against him by the council, although he was later acquitted, as there was no evidence to prove the claims.

It was alleged Kariko had made several sexual advances and remarks towards a female council employee at the beginning of 2013, said to be Engelbrecht. Engelbrecht had joined Grootfontein Municipality in January 2013 as Kariko’s personal assistant.

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