Stop our suffering, urge Hai//om

Tuesday, December 19, 2000 - Web posted at 9:09:01 AM GMT 


THE Hai//om San tribe plans another protest outside the entrance to the Etosha National Game Park to again highlight their plea for the return of ancestral land.

The San tribe held a similar demonstration almost four years ago but 73 of their members ended up in Police cells for six months.

They were eventually released.

The 2 000-strong Hai//om tribe under headman Willem /Aib wrote to The Namibian this week reminding Government that they are still in the same boat as before Independence."

"We Hai//om people just hear that we are independent.

But we say we are not independent.

If you want to see, come to Oshivelo and see.

We are not politicians.

We don't politic.

We are going back to Etosha.

If anyone dies for this, he/she can die," they vow in the letter.

Since 1993 the Hai//om tribe has pressed Government to return their ancestral land in the vicinity of Ombika, Outjo, Otavi, Otjiwarongo, Grootfontein, Tsumeb and Oshivelo.

Now they are even willing to leave Namibia to settle on land elsewhere."

"If you don't have any place for us, please send us away to any country like Angola or Germany.

We are suffering too much.

We are asking the Government to take a look at these facts.

We cannot suffer in a democratic and independent country," they say.

The Hai//om community say they "want Etosha back"."

"We have waited 10 years for the answer but the Government is quiet.

We were shot for our land and our leader [/Aib] was captured with us," they emphasise, referring to the January 1997 case.

They were arrested after they piled tree trunks and rocks at the two gates - Ombika and Namutoni - leading into Etosha and physically prevented visitors from entering the park by standing in front of the gates with bows and arrows at the ready.

Members of the tribe say it was a peaceful demonstration intended to show their strong feelings on the land issue.

However, Police from Otjiwarongo, Tsumeb and Outjo moved in and arrested 73 demonstrators and held them at Tsumeb and Outjo.

Some 11 San were fined N$30 or 10 days in prison for the possession of dangerous weapons.

The remaining 62 were charged with hindering or interrupting the flow of traffic at the Ombika gate.

Assisted by the Legal Assistance Centre of Namibia, the Hai//om succeeded in having the charges against them dropped.

But that was after six months in prison for some who could not pay $200 bail.

While the community's brush with the legal system may be over, their bid for land remains a burning issue.

A while ago /Aib appealed to Government to make some of the farms recently donated to the State by business baron Werner List available to his people.

The Hai//om headman said the more than 21 000 hectares of farmland was in the right area for his people to be resettled.

When he donated the six farms from the Outjo district - Nimitz, Tsumis, Dwight East, Elf, Dwight and Michael - with a combined size of 21 003 hectares to Government, List said he would like them to be used by the University of Namibia, the Polytechnic of Namibia and Neudamm Agricultural College.

The businessman also proposed that an agricultural school be developed from the 5 561-hectare Tsumis farm complex.