September 11, 2002

Namwater Cuts Off Communal Farmers in Waterberg Area

Hundreds of communal farmers in the Waterberg area and their livestock are in dire need of water after the Namibia Water Corporation (NamWater), acting on a Government order, cut their water supplies. NamWater said it had to cut the water on Friday, September 6, because the livestock farmers owe the water utility around N$7 million in unpaid bills. Among the livestock affected are over 60 000 cattle and a large number of sheep, goats and horses.

Zeblon Uanivi, the Regional NamWater Manager responsible for the Otjozondjupa Region, said the water cuts came about after the utility received a directive late August from Dr Vaino Shivute, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development.

Cleophas Mutjavikua, the Chairman of Orutumbo Farmers' Association in the Otjituuo area, and Benestus Kandundu, the Chairman of the Otjozondjupa Farmers' Union, confirmed the water cuts which they said had triggered a crisis. So far almost a hundred cattle have died because the affected farmers have to walk for distances of up to 200 km west of the north-eastern water carrier where there are some boreholes and other water sources, said Mutjavikua. He said the current water crisis in Otjozondjupa was aggravated by the current drought affecting most parts of the country.

Mutjavikua said the affected farmers will make an appeal to Government to subsidise their water as their bills had become too hefty and "unsustainable". He said some of the affected farmers have been reluctant to pay because they believe NamWater's billing system might be faulty as some had incurred monthly water bills of up to N$30 000.

However, Uanivi denied that this was the case and insisted the farmers had fallen behind with their water payments because they had simply refused to pay since a water payments were introduced in 2000. Previously the farmers used to get free water from the Directorate of Rural Water Supply but this was changed by Government.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab insisted on the planned land reform. He assured the Commonwealth that the land redistribution programme will not destabilise the country's peace. He told the Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon that the Government was committed to the principle of "willing-buyer, willing-seller".

Two weeks ago President Sam Nujoma told white commercial farmers in the country to avail more land to the Government for redistribution or face expropriation. He said white commercial farmers have inflated prices for farms offered to the State, and that the Government will expropriate 192 farms belonging to absentee landlords in accordance with the law. Government records indicate that South African nationals own at least 82 farms totalling around 805 699 hectares of land, while German citizens own a further 82 farms which total 337 849 hectares.

Meanwhile, a Namibian Member of Parliament said that Namibia is an extremely unequal society in terms of the distribution of national wealth and income, as 50 per cent of the population survives on approximately 10 per cent of the average income.

Addressing the CPC international conference, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said five per cent of the population "enjoys incomes more than five times the average", while the ratio per capita income between the top five per cent and the bottom 50 per cent is approximately 50 to 1. Though the Government has introduced many strategies, programmes and policies to rectify the imbalances, and despite many breakthroughs, Namibia remains a society of social and economic disparities. "Those are the sources of potential instability, the so-called time-bomb that threatens to reverse all the gains of our post independence development. In that sense our stability and security are fragile," said the Minister. (THE NAMIBIAN)

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