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Evicted farmworker finds pasture in corridor

2022-04-29  Carlos Kambaekwa

Evicted farmworker finds pasture in corridor

Born in 1963 on a commercial farm, Otjarondu, in the Wilhelmstahl area, young Ruben Dausab found himself hobbling between farms in the historical Okasize surroundings, searching for pastures green under the care of his late uncle Dawid Boois.

The family finally settled on farm Okanduro North 15, belonging to German settler Fritz Karl Libtzke, where the family worked for ages until the death of the old man (Fritz), leaving his wife with the sole responsibility of running the day-to-day affairs of the farm, ably assisted by her trusted farmworkers. 

However, a profoundly upsetting episode unfolded when the old lady joined her departed husband a few years later.  Boois said, “in our tradition and culture, we set aside an extended period to mourn departed loved ones and afford them a much deserved dignified sendoff, but to our utter shock and disbelief, the old lady was hardly lowered into her grave when her surviving son Gerhard sarcastically and emotionless pointed his index finger to the symbolic poorly lit night candle decorated on top of the casket. 

He uttered the following cold words in Afrikaans: ‘Sien julle daar die kers wat brand? Di’s ‘n teken van totsiens se aan julle se geliefde miesies. Sy is nie meer saam met ons nie. Dit beteken dit is ook die einde van julle se pad op hierdie plaas’.”

Loosely translated: ‘Look at the candle on the casket; it’s a symbol of bidding farewell to your beloved boss. Well, she’s no longer here with us, and her departure also means that this is the end of your employment on this farm. Namibia is a very big country with a large landscape; you must start packing your bags, including your accumulated livestock and find shelter elsewhere’.

Still shocked and still pondering his next move about his immediate future, Dausab was given three months to vacate the farm. 

However, he was faced with a big challenge, as he had nowhere to go, since all his close family members were farmworkers for as far as he knew. 

He said, “the only people who might know our roots and original habitat are those elders resting over there,” pointing to scattered old graves over the fence.

Even though he was rendered homeless by the eviction, Dausab is one of few farmworkers who have managed to accumulate a decent number of livestock during the years he spent, burning the midnight oil while slaving on various farms, doubling as a motor mechanic and borehole pump expert. 

He left the farm, the only place he knew as a young boy, to start a new journey in the unknown territory – only to find himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

With a large herd of 98 head of cattle, dozens of goats and sheep, Dausab was left with no other option than to retreat to the place where his ancestors have been laid to rest in eternal peace, the historical Okazize whistle post. 

The latter is rumoured to be the chosen “battlefield” – when a sizable number of fed-up Ovaherero foot soldiers, armed with traditional kieries, resolved to attack a moving train during the illegal occupation of Namibia by German settlers.

Dausab has now been illegally squatting in the TransNamib corridor for more than a decade, but his temporary sigh of relief has its ups and downs. 

He lost a fairly significant number of livestock (seven), including an expensive (N$35 000) bull – all turned to ashes by a speeding train, as the animals are grazing dangerously close to the nearby railway tracks. 

His roaming small livestock (goats/sheep) are regularly run over by speeding cars on the main road linking Okahandja to Karibib.  

The ordeal of Dausab is not an isolated scenario, as many generational farmworkers are left to fend for themselves after being evicted from establishments where their parents, grandparents and forefathers came to know as their home.   Nonetheless, the homeless Dausab is still hoping to receive a satisfactory response from local authorities after he had, on numerous occasions, filed failed applications for a resettlement farm, a place he can call home after years of living like a refugee in his motherland. 

In the meantime, the multi-talented Dausab is not resting on his laurels, waiting for manna to fall from heaven. 

He has tabled a commendable enticing business plan to the ministry of agriculture for seed production and currently produces seed at a designated 4.4-hectare piece of land in the government’s pilot programme.   

“Whilst one must applaud the government for the initiative, it is a massive challenge to share a tractor and other equipment with other seed producers because of the long distance between the allocated pieces of land. 

Meanwhile, Dausab, who is illegally squatting in the TransNamib corridor with his spouse, ageing aunt, four siblings and their offspring at his makeshift plot, is still waiting for the promised consignment of equipment. 

Regional councillor for the Okahandja constituency Bethuel Tjaveondja weighed in on the evicted homeless farm worker’s situation. 

“We are fully aware of Dausab’s struggles. He is very handy – and without an iota of doubt, a fantastic livestock farmer. These are the people who should enjoy first preference when it comes to resettlement.” 

2022-04-29  Carlos Kambaekwa

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