A LESSON learned from earlier experiences with communal farmers invading their land and refusing to leave afterwards caused the Namibian Defence Force to take drastic steps to remove farmers from Farm Etiro between Omaruru and Karibib recently.
The Acting Chief of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), Air Vice Marshal Martin Pinehas, issued a statement in which he said that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has allowed communal farmers to graze their animals in training areas, but has since come regret that decision.
“The training areas at Oserekari and Oshivelo have now been invaded by communal farmers who have even erected permanent structures on the land. The presence of the farmers in the training area is currently inhibiting the training activities and action will soon be taken against these farmers. The MOD did nothing wrong in prohibiting the farmers to graze their cattle illegally on NDF q1premises.”
Air Vice Marshal Pinehas said it must be understood that the farmlands acquired by the MOD are not meant for farming but for defence purposes. He said in his statement that the negative reporting and fabrications surrounding the invasion of Farm Etiro by communal farmers from the Erongo region has painted the wrong picture with respect to the National security situation.
He referred to the Defence Act and said that the Minister of Defence is empowered to do or cause to be done all things which are necessary for the efficient defence and protection of Namibia or any part thereof. He also stated that the specific Act also empowers the Minister to inter-alia acquire, hire, construct and maintain defence works, ranges, buildings, training areas and land that is required for defence purposes.
“Battles are mostly fought in vast spaces to allow the fighting troops to apply the necessary tactics in order to have advantage over their adversaries. In preparation for war, soldiers have to train the way they intend to fight, that is why their training exercises must be conducted on vast lanareas called training areas. At the moment the MOD has training areas and shooting ranges at Oserekari, Uulounga Wakolondo, Oshivelo, Otjiwarongo, Mpacha, Otavi, Keetmanshoop, Swartkoppies, Rooikop, Luiperds Valley and Karibib just to mention a few that belong to the NDF. Thus, communities should be aware of these areas and they cannot be inhabited as they are training grounds for soldiers.”
With specific reference to farm Etiro, the MOD said that the invasion of the farm Etiro started in March of this year and the MOD understanding the drought situation remained lenient and allowed the trespassers to bring their cattle to graze.
“At the start this was done on a small scale. To prevent the situation escalating the MOD undertook to strengthen the fence surrounding the farm. While the fence was being strengthened more farmers started to arrive and started infiltrating the farm at night to bring in their cattle to graze on the farm.”
He said the population of the cattle on the farm swelled to over 1 000 and there were over 30 kraals that had been erected by these farmers on the farm. It was at this point that the MOD had to take action and they were instructed to stop trespassing and they were asked to remove their cattle.
“Even though some of the farmers removed their cattle the farmers still remained camping in the corridor. Whilst camping in the corridor they cut the fence and kept bringing their cattle into the farm at night. In the mornings the MOD troops would have to drive the cattle back out and then fix the fence that had been cut. This resulted in a cat-and-mouse game which became unbearable.”
According to Air Vice Marshal Pinehas the visit by a member of parliament, McHenry Venaani aggravated the matter even more.
“Venaani’s behaviour and threats directed towards the soldiers who were at the property and doing what they had been ordered to do by their superior, was uncalled for and unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any peace-loving Namibian.”
The Defence Act prohibits illegal access to military premises and provides for punitive actions. In fact, such persons who are in violation of this Act can be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N$60 000 or to a period of imprisonment not exceeding 15 years or to face both such fines and such imprisonment.
According to the statement, the MOD did nothing wrong in prohibiting the farmers to graze their cattle illegally on Farm Etiro.
He said that he was however very glad that the farmer had now removed all their cattle from the farm as negotiated.
Air-Marshall Pine has urged all politicians not to play politics by using the name of the NDF or to drag the NDF into politics.