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Extortion behind land grabbing allegations

Extortion behind land grabbing allegations

Staff Reporter

THE relentless abuse of the kindness, humanity, and hospitality of former President Hifikepunye which bordered on political blackmail and extortion for more than 17 years by a person living on his farm was shockingly laid bare in the National Assembly.


Questions posed by Henny Seibeb of the Landless Peoples’ Movement (LPM), which were clearly intended to cast suspicion on the farming operations of the former President, backfired on the LPM and created embarrassment on the motive and credibility of the opposition.


The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Calle Schlettwein, painted a picture of the hell President Pohamba had to endure as a farm owner for almost two decades under pressure from a worker of the previous owner.


The narrative also created a false impression that the occupant was a generational farmworker, while it was not the case.


Schlettwein reacted to questions posed by LPM about how the former President came to own farm Guinaspoh and why a worker has been asked to leave the farm.


Extortion land grabbing allegations humanity hospitality former President Hifikepunye bordered political blackmail
Pictured: Former Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba. Photo: File


Schlettwein stated that the questions posed by the LPM are based on misinformation and assumptions.


“My answer is, however, still needed to expose the deliberate efforts by Honourable Seibeb to mislead by way of untruths and to correct any misinformation about the matter,” he said.


With regard to the acquisition of the farm, Schlettwein stated that the Deeds Registry shows that the former President and his wife, Penehupifo Hasho Pohamba, purchased Farm Ebenhauezer No. 464 measuring 3192.2574 hectares, and Portion 1 of the Farm Guinas No 454, measuring 1019.5094 hectares, situated in Registration Division ‘’B”, held under Deed of Title No. T1348/2000, in a single transaction, during 2003.


“It was further verified that the farms were consolidated the same year to form Farm Guinaspoh No.1401, measuring 4211.7668 hectares, held under Certificate of Consolidated Title No.T1430/2003,” he said.


The agriculture minister further stated that the two farms were not acquired by the State as a Resettlement unit and is therefore not State-owned land.


“Further, it is equally untrue that the former President was resettled. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform has verified through its database that the farms were purchased under the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (Section 46(1) (A) of the Agricultural Bank Act, Act 13 of 1944). The farm is the private property of Hifikepunye Pohamba and Penehupifo Pohamba held under Certificate of Consolidated Title No.T1430/2003,” Schlettwein stated.


With regard to the resettlement of an old woman and her husband that worked on the farm from before the former president bought it from the previous owner, the agriculture minister said that the registered Free Hold Titles at the time of purchase of the farms were unencumbered.


The farms had no registered usufruct rights, caveats, or similar rights of third parties included.


“It is factually incorrect to state that Mrs. Haodoms is a generational farm worker. In fact, she used to work for the late Mr. Bennie Grobler, the former farm owner as a domestic worker at another locality, not on this particular farm,” he said.


According to Schlettwein, the former President and his wife found the couple accommodated on the farm with the understanding from the son of the former owner that they would eventually depart.


“The couple is not employed at the farm. They have only been permitted to temporarily reside on the farm on humanitarian and compassionate grounds until such time they can find an alternative place. Further, the couple and through their son who is gainfully employed elsewhere were advised to apply for resettlement as the temporary arrangement could not continue to be renewed,” he stated.


The agriculture minister said that the new owner of the farm had no obligation towards the couple that is residing on their private land.


“I must elaborate this point further by stating that Mrs. Amanda Kairises was in the employ of the late Mr. Bennie Grobler (senior), father of Mr. Christiaan Jacobus Grobler (junior), from whom the farm was bought. Mrs. Kairises was formerly married to Mr. Alfons Haodom but is now wedded to Mr. Alfred Kairises. Mr. Grobler senior had made a promise to Mrs. Kairises to accommodate her on his farm and that commitment was subsequently passed on to the son, Mr. Christian Jacobus Grobler,” he said.


He stated that the former President had approached Grobler junior to make good on the promise and ensure that Mrs. Kairises is accommodated elsewhere but to no avail.


“Out of compassion for the stranded Mrs. Kairises and her spouse, the Pohambas consequently allowed the couple to stay on the farm for five years,” he said.


According to Schlettwein, Grobler junior was again approached via his lawyer to either accommodate the Kairiseb/s couple or to pay a commensurate rental fee, but unfortunately, neither response nor any payment was received by the Pohambas.


In an effort to formalise the situation, the former President entered into an agreement with Mrs. and Mr. Kairises/b, which allowed them to remain on the farm for a further five year period.


They agreed to a very humble rent of N$120 annually.


A formal agreement, signed by the Pohambas and the Kairisebs, which stipulated rights and obligations of both the farm owner and the renters, was entered into on 31 October 2008.


Schlettwein said that after the lapse of the five years and consequentially the agreement, no alternative accommodation had been provided to Mrs. Kairises by Grobler junior.


“Again out of humanitarian considerations the former President and his wife extended the agreement for a further three years with similar conditions, including amongst others a prohibition to erect structures on the farm without the permission by the owner, limiting the number of animals to the carrying capacity and to graze only in the camp allocated to them, maintaining fences and to pay a rental fee of N$144 per year. This agreement was signed on the 18th of February 2013 and was made non-renewable. This agreement lapsed in 2018 and ended the permission by the owner extended to Mrs. Amanda Kairises and spouse to occupy the camp allocated them,” he said.


Schlettwein said that both agreements were unfortunately breached several times by the Kairisebs.


He said these breaches of the contract included the erection of structures on the farm without permission, the total neglect of maintaining the fences of the allocated camp.


“They also invited other members of their family to settle on the farm without any permission by the owner. After all, the Kairisebs were accommodated by President Pohamba and his wife for a period of 13 years. It is therefore abundantly clear that the former President and his wife showed great compassion towards Amanda Kairises and her spouse. The responsibility to care for the long term employee firmly rests with the Groblers, not with the Pohambas,” he stated.


To the question, if the agriculture minister will expropriate this farm and give it to the elderly couple as provided for in Article 16 Property sub-article (2) which authorised him by law to expropriate in the public interest subject to the payment of just compensation, Schlettwein answered that due to the factual situation as already described, there is no intention, nor a need to expropriate the property.


With regard to the question if the former President abused his status to grab land, Schlettwein stated that Pohamba and his wife, like any other citizen, are entitled under Article 16 (1) of the Namibian Constitution the rights to “acquire, own and dispose of all forms of immovable and movable property”.


“Our Constitution also reserves the right for private persons to sell their property to the highest bidder as long as the formalities under Section 17 of the Agricultural [Commercial] Land Reform Act, Act No. 6 of 1995 have been dispensed with. As alluded to before, the farm under question was acquired in 2003 under the AALS through Agribank and all formalities as required by policy and legal framework were dispensed with. I am pleased to further inform you that the loan has been fully paid off,” he said.


Schlettwein stressed that the questions posed by the LPM are factually incorrect and highly misleading and probably meant to tarnish the image of the former Head of State and Government and President of the Swapo ruling party.


“The former President understood the humane factors confronting the former worker of the late Mr. Bennie Grobler and treated her with compassion. He has no other legal obligations towards her. It is wrong to peddle factually flawed narratives that leave the House questioning whether what is being peddled in the guise of questions is genuine or not? Or what is being insinuated is meant to cast aspersion on the individual concerned, which in principle is wrong. Such behaviour is uncalled for,” he concluded.


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