…Unemployment, land, water a major stumbling block
Living day-to-day with a limited income is a reality for many people in the village and without support from government, they wouldn’t be able to break through the wall of poverty.
Discontented, disappointed and disserted are just some of the few adjectives that best describes the residents of Dordabis – who find themselves about 90 kilometres east of Windhoek in the Khomas rural constituency.
During a recent visit to the farm, this reporter was met by a hopeful residents who are optimistic about the future but cannot hide their current sufferings.
Sharing his experience with The Patriot during the visit, 64-year-old Gabriel Kazerua said a lack of land ownership was his greatest lament.
“Our major plights here is firstly water, resettlement (no land is given to us in Dordabis) and the whites who continue to oppress us in our land of birth,” bemoaned Kazerua who lives at the village which has a population of just over 1500 people.
When asked to describe how the residence were being oppressed, Kazerua briefly stated: “They (whites/farm owners) oppress to such an extent that our livestock are not allowed to graze beyond the government’s road (about 1km from his homes) because they pay tax. If our animals go through the fence and onto their land, we are forced to pay if we want our cattle back.”
According to Kazerua, once their animals are confiscated by the farm owners, the residents have to an amount of N$50 per head to get them back.
Being a pensioner, Kazerua depends solely on the N$1200 old-age pension grant to support himself and a family of seven members.
“I don’t have a job, I live of the government pension. Although it is not enough, there is nothing I can do about it. I am a farmer, so I also survive of the few livestock that I own. But again, we suffer a lot especially when the water pump breaks as it takes up six months until it is repaired by government,” he lamented while adding that government needs more to develop the village which has become a hotspot for squalor, alcohol abuse and crime.
He added: “The councillor never comes to hear our problems. Today is the first time that we are seeing her, she has never been here before. I am shocked to see her, I can’t believe it. I approached her and told her that we have even forgotten that we have someone that is supposed to represent us,” lamented Kazerua.
Khomas rural constituency councillor Penina Inga Ita has been accused by Dordabis residents of being nowhere to be seen since she got into office about 18 months ago.
The councillor was however quick to downplay the accusation, saying she has visited the areas on multiple occasions.
In addition, the 64-year-old former construction worker aired dismay over the future of the younger generation of Dordabis.
“When I look at the youth of this place, my heart breaks each time. They are doing absolutely nothing. Survival means for the youth here is through stealing and other criminal activities. Even if government brings projects to get these young people involved, I doubt it will help because honestly, they have lost hope and have no zeal or hunger to work whatsoever,” said a clearly disappointed Kazerua.
With many fingers pointed at government’s willing buyer-willing seller approach of returning land into the hands of the majority of Namibians, many Namibians remain in dire need of a place to call home.
Speaking to The Patriot was another Dordabis resident in the form of Ockhulzen Isak who said the residents are confined to a small portion of land that is owned by the State.
“The land you see, where the school, police station and people are on belongs to the government and the rest is privately owned. So we don’t have a say, we cannot extend our houses anymore and people are flocking into Dordabis despite not having land to build on. That is the problem we are having now,” said Isak.
Echoing the words of Kazerua, Isak said the residents have attempted on several occasions to meet with the councillor’s office, just for their cries to fall on deaf ears.
“We just want government to come and hear what are problems are here in Dordabis. As for the councillor, I have not called her in person, but the chairman has told to come, she promised to come but up to this day, we have not met her,” noted Isak.
Due to the growing population at Dordabis, the school finds itself in dire need of expansion in order to house learners once they have completed their grade seven.
At present, the school has over 330 learners, of which 112 have been accommodated at the school’s dormitory. The staff compliment is 11 teachers, a cook and two institutional workers.
In an interview, the school’s principal Gerhardine Uises said the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture promised to expand the school during the 2016/17 financial year.
To the contrary, unlike other government schools that find the going tough mainly because of operating on privately owned land, Uises said her school enjoys a great relation with the farm owners.
“My school does not have any problem with the farm owners. As long as you are under those who give you assistance you must appreciate. The farm owner renovated the school hall for us last year and promised to build a kitchen for the school because we currently make use of a zinc structure to cook for the learners,” said Uises.
About 30 kilometers from Dordabis is Bloukrans Primary School.
At the time of the visit, the school faced a water crisis after the farm owner on which the state-owned school is built disconnected the water pipes that supply potable water to the school.
As a consequence, teachers and learners are forced to make use of the bush to relief themselves and use basins to bath as both the showers and toilets have been affected.
Although government is aware of the predicament, there is little it can do as the farm is privately owned.
Ita described the situation as “unbearable”.
“A member of the Oorlam family[farm owners] wanted to get money from government without necessarily understanding the history of how this borehole was drilled. And now this (disconnection) is affecting not only the principal, but close to 20 workers and about 200 learners that cannot use showers,” charged Inga Ita.
She further added: “This is not a desirable condition because it is not conducive for learning and teaching because teachers are forced to go and teach without taking a bath when water in the tank runs out.
Sometimes, they (teachers) have to sacrifice water for meals because there is no water and the farmer seemingly does not have a bigger vision for the Namibian child.”
Government currently gets water from a nearby farm to cater for the school’s water needs at a cost of N$3500 per month. The water, which is filled in a 10 000ml tank is refilled once every two weeks.
To mitigate the water crisis at the school on a short term basis while government and the said farm owner resolve their difference, Daniel Korner who lives on a farm adjacent to the school has pledged to supply the school with water.
“If government can help us by meeting us halfway then we can definitely help the school. It is not a problem to help the school. The problem around here is that there is underground water on the piece of land on which the school is built, but that water is not fit for consumption,” explained Korner.
Korner said if government can assist him with the cost of electricity which is used to pump water from the ground, he would not mind helping the school which he once wandered as young boy.
Due to an array of challenges that government schools face when operating on privately owned land, senior government officials have since been calling for the expropriation of land on which these schools are built.
In an interview earlier this year, Khomas governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua said the expropriation of farms or pieces of land on which government schools find themselves would be in the best interest of education.
Education, Arts and Culture Permanent Secretary Sanet Steenkamp has in the not so distant past said the ministry faces multiple challenges in executing its mandate with regard to government schools that are located on private land and that the ministry would be in agreement if such land was to be expropriated.
Steenkamp told this publication that the provision of water to government schools that are built on private land was a major challenge for the ministry.
Steenkamp said at the time: “Some schools do not have access to portable water. To address this, the Ministry through the regional offices pays for water supply to schools. In other instances, water from the borehole with the diesel for the pump paid by the Ministry is also used by the community.
Other challenges include the fact that some schools become subject of intricate familial land disputes and squabbles about boreholes – the Ministry thus carts water to the schools affected by this.”
Steenkamp’s sentiments at the time best describes the current water dilemma at Bloukrans.
At present, seven and 15 government schools operate on privately owned land in the Khomas and Hardap regions respectively.