The death of prominent farmer Louis van der Merwe has drawn tributes from far and wide, especially from his native Omaheke region, where he was held in high regard. He died on Sunday following an illness.
Van der Merwe has been farming in the Omaheke region for many years, and has worked tirelessly to improve the standard of cattle in the region through actions, while he was a stern advocate for high market prices for livestock in the region.
While the farming sector mourns his death, ordinary residents of Omaheke have also been struggling with his death, as they remember the late farmer’s economic contribution to the town and the region at large.
To many of them, the Brahman farmer will be engraved in their hearts for the manufacturing and erection of the white Brahman bull statue at the entrance of the eastern town of Gobabis, which has in turn become a prominent landmark for the town and region too.
Omaheke governor Pio Nganate wrote, “the region has lost one of her great sons, comrade Louis van der Merwe, the man who selflessly erected the Brahman bull that became the symbol of this great region, and has made the region to be fondly known as ‘cattle country’. We will remember him for his contribution economically and socially.
“Whenever we enter Gobabis, we will know he is still with us as the bull he has erected will forever speak of his legacy. He was a true farmer who believed in quality, and would go out of his way to ensure that quality is met in the production of his livestock,” said Felix Hambira, who farms in the Epukiro communal area.
For PDM leader McHenry Venaani, who also farms in the Omaheke region, Van der Merwe’s death is a blow to farming. He said as a weaner farmer, the late farmer had great human relations with fellow farmers, and was always willing to share his knowledge on the sector when prompted to.
“I remember him as one of the foremost hardworking farmers. His farm St Blaize is a sign of the hard work he has put in over the years when one looks at how it was developed over the years. He is clearly a pioneer in farming, and his contribution to the sector will be greatly missed. We will remember him most for his stoic contribution to the sector.
Van der Merwe was a lover of the Brahman breed; but not just any Brahman - the white Brahman, to be precise, which he regarded as being of better meat quality and high carcass weight compared to its red cousin.
The St Blaize Brahman stud had its humble beginning in 1971 when Van der Merwe bought three top-quality pregnant Brahman cows. As a farmer and cattleman, but also a livestock agent, he travelled Namibia extensively, and was impressed by the big impact that these beautiful, humped breed had made to the national herd in the short time since they were first imported into the then South-West Africa.
After those initial cows followed purchases of females from some of the best Brahman herds in Namibia and South Africa. Today, the St Blaize Brahman female herd consists of approximately 220 breeding females, and the herd has been closed for the past 20 years. The females have a certain look, and are well- adapted to the harsh African climate.