Children of the wind
They say before the Germans came, their land stretched from Outjo to Grootfontein, but today they have nothing.
12 December 2018 | Cultural
They say they are not interested in “vaseline, coke and brötchens” and that government must restore their ancestral land and dignity.
Chief Ananias Soroseb of the Kai !Akhoen Hai/Om San royal house, who is the grandson of the late Chief Fritz Aribeb #Arebeb, who was killed by the Germans in 1904 near Okorusu, also asked why the San cannot be treated like other tribes in the country.
According to him Chief Royal Johan Kxao /Ui/o/oo, deputy minister of marginalised communities in the Office of the Vice-President, has ignored their calls and never met with them since his appointment.
“We have written to him and when we arrived in Windhoek to meet him, he was nowhere to be found. He is only promoting the interests of the Ovaherero and Tsumkwe's Ju|'hoan-speaking community. He is not interested in the rest of us, we must fight for ourselves,” Soroseb said.
He also said it makes no sense for government to have a directorate to address the plight of the San and yet the officials are from other tribes.
“These people do not take care of our concerns.”
They give those opportunities to their people.
The scholarships and feeding schemes are going to other people, while the San are starving,” he said.
According to Chief Josef Gomoseb, some San who work on farms do not even receive government drought relief.
“Their employers take them to give their fingerprints to receive the food, but once they are back on the farm they are rationed. The maize meal is measured with half a 500ml coke bottle to last them a week,” he said.
Kai !Akhoen Hai//om San commemorated their annual traditional festival this past Saturday and also the death of their first leader, Chief #Arebeb.
“Before the Germans came here our land stretched from Outjo to Grootfontein, but today we have nothing. Without land you can do nothing; land is life. We are now scattered all over the country, and have lost our culture and language. When we die one day, our children will have nothing to inherit and so the cycle of poverty and landlessness will continue,” said Soroseb.
They have now pinned their hopes on a commission of inquiry into the issue of ancestral land claims, announced by President Hage Geingob during the closing of the second national land conference in October.
The commission is expected to look into the issue of ancestral land claims and restitution.
“We really hope this commission will be started as soon as possible; we cannot wait any longer for our land. Our people are dying without places to call home and our children are forced to live on other people's farms. We do not even have a place where we can go during Christmas holidays,” Soroseb said.
Attempts to reach /Ui/o/oo proved futile.
Still left behind
Marginalised communities in Namibia such as the San, Ovatue and Ovatjimba are still living in extreme poverty, with little or no access to education, health facilities, housing, land and potable water, while being hit by a high number of teen pregnancies and school dropouts.
This was confirmed by deputy director of marginalised communities in the Office of the Vice-President, Gerson Kamatuka, during the launch of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) San community conference in Windhoek last week.
According to him the San are shut out of development opportunities or access to basic rights because they do not meet the necessary requirements to benefit.
“Our housing minister is seen launching houses every time but we do not see the San in those houses, because they must have an income. But the San are hunters and gatherers, they do not have jobs. The Namibian Constitution says every child must go to school but the San are not in the school because they do not have birth certificates,” he said.
He added that the San are also unable to apply for resettlement farms because of the stringent requirements.
“Not only can they not read and write to fill in the forms, but they do not have the cows and cattle that are required. That is why our department is now appealing that these requirements be reconsidered, so that they can apply with just a chicken or a dog,” said Kamatuka.
His department has also reached out to the police and requested for a quota through which a number of San can be recruited into the force.
“Under normal circumstances it would be difficult because the San in most cases do not reach grade 12,” he said.
He added that the tendency to build schools in urban areas also negatively affects the San who live in “mountains” and “valleys”.
“And then you have the requirement that a clinic can only be built in an area where about 600 people are living. Now what about the San that are nomadic hunters and gatherers?” he asked.