ONGOMBO WEST – Ongombo West, once a flourishing commercial flower farm, has now been wracked by high crime and violence, while the local community says they have become easy targets for criminals.
In its heyday and before it was expropriated by government, Ongombo West exported flowers to the lucrative European market.
However, the farm is now in a deplorable state, while crime has become a serious issue in the area, despite its relatively small population.
The farm has now become one of the crime hotspots in the Khomas region, a situation that prompted police Khomas commander Commissioner Joseph Shikongo and the /Khomanin Traditional Authority to engage the community on the issue on Saturday.
During the well-attended community meeting, residents highlighted crimes such as stock theft, drug smuggling, gender-based violence and poaching among the frequent serious offences.
The meeting was held to discuss with the community the challenges they experienced in terms of crime.
The purpose of the meeting was also to outline how the concerned group and the police, as well as the traditional authority would work towards finding a solution to the growing problem.
Local resident Wosaria //Kharises complained of drug dealing on the farm, saying it is rife and destroying the community.
She pleaded for the police to intervene into the matter before it spirals out of control.
“Although you can see we are a small community, drug dealing and the illegal sale of alcohol is high here. These people are committing crimes here, but they are never arrested. They are in the hiding but some live with us – but we are so afraid to inform the police. We need a strong relationship with the police so that most of these offenders will be apprehended,” she said. //Kharises added there was also no cordial relationship with neighbouring commercial farmers, describing this as a major setback in tackling crime.
“We do not have any existing relationship with white farmers here; I don’t want to be racist but that is a reality. Some farmers do not want community members to access public roads next to their premises and have opened cases of trespassing. That too can hinder the combating of crime,” she said.
Many other residents were also in full concurrence, adding most of the young people have lost hope of a bright future due to crime, which is rife in the area.
On his part, Shikongo emphasised greater cooperation between the police and the community to combat crime and also to explore the possibility of a neighbourhood watch in the area.
“This meeting is meant to educate the community on how to combat the criminal activities taking place within and how to form a good relationship between them (community) and the police. I also want to share my concerns about the withdrawing of cases in the area. When a person is in pain, they open cases – and when they recover, they withdraw, which hinders police work,” he pointed out.
The commissioner described the meeting a success, saying the police will be hard at work to ensure the area becomes crime-free.
The chief of the /Khomanin Traditional Authority Juliana Gawanas urged the community members to stop hiding criminals and report them to the police.
Ongombo West was the first farm to be expropriated in Namibia, following a dispute between the farm owners and workers.
This process gave resettled families access to 4 000 hectares of land, of which the majority is today lying idle.
Back in the day, the farm exported 150 000 flowers to Germany, Holland and South Africa annually. In its prime, Ongombo West produced between 130 000 and 150 000 Arum Lilies (Zantedeschia flowers) worth an estimated $500 000.