NAMIBIA: Child labourers dumped next to road by farmers

Summary: A group of 120 San children was dumped along the Rundu-Grootfontein road early last month, allegedly by farmers from the Grootfontein district wishing to avoid being charged for using children as labourers.

[24 June 2011] - The children were dropped off some 40 kilometres south of the Mururani checkpoint.

It is suspected that the San children were abandoned by farm owners who wanted to avoid prosecution for using the children as farm labourers.

It could not be independently confirmed whether this was indeed the reason why the children were taken away from the farms.

Most of these San children were born on farms in the Grootfontein area, and they grew up there with their parents. Coincidentally, the alleged dumping of these children has taken place at a time when the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is conducting visits to farms countrywide to investigate cases of child labour.

After spending two cold nights by the roadside, the children were rescued on May 16 this year by the former mayor of Rundu, Gosbert Mandema, who transported them to a safer area.

The children were reportedly found hungry, and without shoes or any warm clothes.

Mandema immediately held a meeting with the leadership of Mururani Combined School, and they agreed to transport the children to the Mururani Community Hostel, which is situated some 130 kilometres south of Rundu where they are currently accommodated.

He told Nampa that the San children were removed from the farms because some of the work they were required to do was labour-intensive and some of them were too young to do it.

According to him, the children were only paid with food rations and did not get any money for their work.

Kahenge constituency councillor Joseph Sikongo told Nampa upon enquiry that the San children, who are all between five and 15 years old, were dumped on the Rundu-Grootfontein road on May 14.

Sikongo could not establish the identity of the person/s who dumped the children there.

The Kahenge councillor, who conducted his own investigation with the assistance of the Swapo Party coordinator in the region, Vincent Likoro, said he found out that the San children are from about 78 different farms in the Grootfontein district.

“It is a very sad story. I almost cried when I saw those children. You cannot believe that children could be treated that way, just like animals,” said Sikongo.

He said some of the children told him that they had been abused at the farms, as they were looking after livestock, mainly sheep and goats, without being paid, while their parents only worked for food without earning any salaries.

The Kahenge councillor called on the Ministry of Safety and Security and the Office of the Ombudsman to launch an investigation into the matter.

He said the San children are currently in desperate need of tents, as some of them are sleeping on the floor because the hostel is unable to accommodate them all.

Sikongo proposed that the government should also provide food relief to the San children on a monthly basis.

The chairperson of the Mururani Community Hostel, Annacleta Sikerete, told Nampa  that there were 20 other San children in the school hostel before the last group came there.

“There are currently 306 children, including learners of the Mururani Combined School, in that hostel built to accommodate only 150 children,” she said.

The Office of the Prime Minister recently provided 122 bags of maize meal, 11 bales of blankets, 28 boxes of tinned fish, 81 mattresses, 10 boxes of cooking oil and a tent to the San children.


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