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Marginalised community demands farmland

2023-03-20  Albertina Nakale

Marginalised community demands farmland

KYARECAN - A group of marginalised relocated San people living at Kyarecan resettlement village in the Sibbinda constituency are demanding farmland to cultivate their crops as they no longer want to rely on government handouts, which often come late.

“We don’t have farmland. We don’t have any work to sustain ourselves. How can we survive in this thick bush with elephants and hyenas? The indunas (headmen) at the nearby villages don’t want us to get land,” moaned Sean Liswaniso on behalf of his community, who seem hopeless.

Unfortunately, the San-speaking communities in the Zambezi region have no chief, and fall under the Mafwe Traditional Authority. 

Liswaniso said he was enrolled at the University of Namibia, but had to drop out due to financial problems when Covid-19 hit.

Since his future is drab, he was forced by the troubling financial situation to join fellow San-speaking people in the village, where they live in abject poverty.

“We didn’t perform well academically in 2020 due to corona. We need the government to provide us with jobs to also end the high crime rate in the village,” he pleaded. 

The government provided eight cattle for the 55 households last year for farming and ploughing services. The eight comprised four oxen for ploughing, three heifers and one bull.

Equally, the government provides crop seeds to them, but the villagers say the constituency office where they collect them is very far.

The community, comprising more than 100 San-speaking people, was relocated to the Waya-Waya area, some 20km from the Macaravan informal settlement at Katima Mulilo in 2011.

At the moment, the village is home to 55 households which solely depend on the government for food items and other basic services.

During a field visit to the area last week, Kyarecan village headman Jim Ben told New Era that the government has abandoned them in the bush. Here, they now face poverty, unemployment, high teenage pregnancy, and a lack of clean water, electricity, education and healthcare.

“The government used to provide food for the San-speaking community. However, the food arrives late. Sometimes, we wait and go for three months without food. We struggle a lot without food, and we have small children and the elderly amongst us. The government must improve and support us. We are suffering here,” Ben continued as his community looked on hopelessly.

Per household, they receive two 10kg bags of maize meal, one tin of fish, two tins of canned beef and two 750ml bottles of cooking oil, salt and dry beans.

Lack of housing 

The government provided the community with cement to make brickhouses. To their surprise, they say after making about 39 000 bricks, they were told they will be provided with zinc houses.

Years later, the bricks are now standing in the village with no sign of any construction, while the marginalised community sleeps in deplorable structures as the mud houses are falling apart.

“The government promised to build us permanent houses, and bring us electricity. But up to now, nothing. They brought a brick-making machine. We managed to make 39 000 bricks, but still they have done nothing. Our mud houses are falling apart due to rain and wind,” Ben fumed. 

The village has a small kindergarten made out of zinc structures, where more than 20 children are attending school with one teacher supervising them.

Lack of healthcare

The community said they likewise have difficulty accessing healthcare facilities, as clinics are far from them.

“If a person gets sick here, it is difficult to get medical attention. We don’t have transport. When we ask neighbours for help to take us to hospital, they refuse because they want us to pay N$200 or more for transport when we have an emergency at night,” said Liswaniso, one of the few people who speaks English in the village.

Crime rate

Due to the high unemployment rate, crime has increased.

Ben said the children are dropping out of school due to poverty, and this forces young girls to indulge in sexual activities, willingly and unwillingly, to survive.

“Zambian cattle herders are doing sinister things to our young girls. Teenage pregnancy is very high. When these kids are hungry, they drop out of school. Men are giving young girls money, and they go and sleep with them in exchange for money. Most of the children born are not registered for monthly social grants,” Liswaniso indicated.

The community often faces conflict with wildlife such as elephants and hyenas, who frequent the area.

They resort to beating drums as a way of chasing these dangerous animals away.

Sibbinda councillor Mickey Lukaezi is aware of the plight of the community, and said he visits the community when he can.

“I concur with them when they criticise us. We have administrative issues here. I was part of their identification in town in 2010, and found a place for them as they were mostly street kids with their parents. We build mud houses when they relocated. Some returned, since we didn’t really treat them well. These people have never worked or ploughed in their lives. I ensured they got national documents,” he reacted.

He admitted that complaints over a lack of food have been received by his office, but that he is not responsible for such distribution. 

“Should we whip someone to work, while they are paid to do their job every month? No,” he remarked. 

Lukaezi said he managed to secure N$48 000 from the urban and rural development ministry to buy the eight cattle for the community with the aim to do ploughing.

Esdrus Kaseba in the Office of the President under the division of marginalised communities in the Zambezi region, was contacted for comment. He had not responded to questions sent to him by the time of publishing. 



2023-03-20  Albertina Nakale

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