'We have no other home'

The people of Dordabis have been forced to eke out a living on corridors, having to use a 'dompas' to access certain areas.

09 August 2019 | Agriculture

The poverty level at Dordabis knows no boundaries; it is here that man and animal drink from the same waterhole and share the same living space.

On Thursday Dordabis's displaced people, many who live with no dignity under trees in corridors, plucked up their last flicker of hope to plead with the Ancestral Land Commission for their land back, or at the very least a piece of land to call their own.

Fritz Araeb, one of the residents, said they are treated like “sub-humans” by the white farm owners in and around Dordabis.

“We cannot even pick up firewood. One day I picked up a stick under a tree here and the white woman told me to put it down because the land is hers,” he said.

Martha Namises told the Commission that some white farm owners have introduced some sort of “pass system” for people who want to visit their family's graves or even their relatives who work on the farm.

“We cannot go onto their farms without that paper,” she said as she was fighting back the tears while relating how her family have lost their land to white farmers.

“The white people enslaved our parents, we have nothing,” she sobbed.

Another painful thing, she added is that they now have to beg the Russian billionaire Rashid Sardarov for grazing land.

Sardarov bought farms outside Windhoek for more than N$43 million, despite a public outcry about the sale of land to foreign absentee landlords.

Sardarov, who already owned a 28 000-hectare property on which the state-of-the-art game ranch known as Marula Game Lodge is located, re-entered the media spotlight last year when it emerged he had purchased four farms, donated them to the Namibian government and was then granted a 99-year lease for the properties.

The deal was signed 13 days before Namibia's second national land conference, which spoke out strongly against foreign ownership of land.

Sardarov paid N$2 500 per hectare for four farms totalling around N$43.5 million.

Farms Rainhoff, Kameelboom and Smaldeel, totalling 11 402 hectares, were sold as a unit for N$28.5 million while Farm Wolfsgrund was sold for N$14.9 million and is 5 989 hectares in size.

Under the lease agreement Sardarov pays N$160 168 in rent for the first quarter of each year in 2018/19 and thereafter the land tax paid by owners of commercial farms must be paid. Sardarov now has in his control slightly more than 45 000 hectares of land in Namibia.

Namises who lives in the corridors with her family and told Namibian Sun that “we do not have a fixed address. One day we are here, and the other day we are someplace else. We do not even have proper furniture because of this way of living.”

The Dordabis community, mostly Khoekhoegowab-speaking people, are all crammed into a portion of land almost like a reserve while the rest of the land is private property.

“We cannot even keep animals, because if they wander off into the white people's land then they are impounded and only released once a fine is paid,” said Araeb.

“That is why you will find a kaya and the kraal right next to it,” he added.

The only beacon of hope in Dordabis is the post office because this is where the social grants are paid out.

Namibian Sun visited Simon Witbooi, a 65-year-old man who was born in Dordabis who said he has no other place to call home.

The stench of rotten meat is thick in the air as he laments how they are not allowed to pick up firewood.

“So even if we do have food we cannot cook it, because we do not always have money for electricity. It is again as if we are in the apartheid years,” he said.

Witbooi's parents, their parents and those before them, all were born and lived at Dordabis for years.

Witbooi's lives with his wife more than six adult children who share the four makeshift shacks with their own children.

“We have no other place. This is where we will die, he said.

Just a few metres away from Witbooi lives 38-year-old Cleofas Gomchob, who lives with his two disabled brothers, his grandmother and his own two children.

Gomchob said he cannot go away with a job because of his family and on a number of times he was summoned after being away with work because the brothers got ill.

“If I could just have a piece of land where I can keep a few goats or even make a garden then we can fend for ourselves,” he said.


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