A dispute between Angolan migrants and a farmer in the Grootfontein district has ended in imprisonment following counter allegations of theft, failure to pay for the work done, as well as being in the country illegally.
Last week Thursday, 12 Angolan men were arrested by the police for being illegally in the country. The men are part of a group of 31, including women and children, who were allegedly working at a charcoal farm outside Grootfontein for a certain prominent businessman (whose name is known but cannot be revealed before he appears in court), who later dumped them at the police station, after a fallout regarding payment for work done.
Otjozondjupa police spokesperson, Inspector Maureen Mbeha said the 12 are being detained under the immigration detention laws, as they were found without valid documents. They are currently held at the Coblenz police station.
“On Friday, the farmer again brought a group of women and children to the police station, with the same reason that they are illegal immigrants without documents. But they were not arrested nor detained and are being accommodated at the Grootfontein showgrounds,” said Mbeha.
Furthermore, the police spokesperson said two detained men opened a case of theft against the farmer because he allegedly stole their equipment, which includes some axes and a panga, while one registered two cases of common assault and pointing of a firearm.
In total, there are three cases opened against the farmer, who is due to appear in court this week. He was arrested yesterday afternoon.
It is unclear whether the migrants arrived in the same wave as thousands of Angolans who recently left Angola to Namibia due to extreme hardship.
Some of the migrants have settled in Etunda in the Omusati region while a few have found their way to Windhoek.
Grootfontein constituency councillor Elder Fillipe said the women and children are still traumatised due to the arrest of their husbands.
“I was called on Friday that there was a group of women and children gathered at the police station. Upon arrival, we discovered they are Angolan immigrants who had no documentation and were apparently dumped there by the said farmer after some dispute,” he said.
“They were crying uncontrollably and seem traumatised as they think their husbands, fathers will be killed.”
Fillipe added he was forced to intervene after which he organised to accommodate the stranded group at the sports field.
“With the help of other stakeholders, we managed to buy food for them while the matter is still being addressed. But I must say, it was very painful looking at how vulnerable they were,” he added.
The councillor said he was told that they were brought to Grootfontein from Kunene by the implicated farmer.
“So, how does one bring in people and fail to take them back? How inhumane can that be? I will not tolerate anyone treating people in my constituency in such a manner, regardless of who the people are. Human beings should be treated with dignity. Cheap labour and exploitation can also not be tolerated, especially in this charcoal industry. These are the people (Angolans) who assisted us during the liberation struggle, why should we then treat them like trash?” lamented Fillipe.
Sources close to the case told New Era more charges are likely to be opened against the farmer as immigration officials are also investigating the matter.
“How he got hold of immigrants is still being investigated, and there is a possibility that more charges will be added,” said Mbeha.