Why is illegal grazing, fencing and settlement on San land, not a priority?
In recent years both N≠a Jaqna Conservancy and Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest have had to resort to the courts to have an illegal settlement, fencing and grazing addressed by the authorities. Their job is to protect the rights of the San rights and uphold the law. However, they have not fulfilled their obligations.
These are both San majority conservancies, formed and supposedly protected by Acts under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.
Even after judgements in their favour, the Ministries and authorities who should be implementing the court's orders are failing to do so. The !Kung Traditional Authority and the Otjozondjupa Communal Land Board recently claimed that all the 22 evicted illegal settlers in N≠a Jaqna had been removed, as per the High Court order of August 2016. They claimed this without verifying it, and the reality is the many of them remain.
Additionally, in the years between bringing the case to court and today, illegal settlement continues with the unchecked and unlawful erection of new fences. None of the authorities is taking responsibility for addressing these transgressions. The Programme for Communal Land Development (PCLD) under the Ministry of Land Reform states in their latest planning document for the N≠a Jaqna conservancy that there were no illegal farmers or fences left in the area, while at the same time including a map and findings in direct contradiction to that claim.
As far back as August 2013, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the Ministry of Lands and Ministry of Regional and Local Government prohibited the Traditional Authority from issuing any more permits for the movement of animals to and from the Tsumkwe East area. Farmers flaunted this prohibition then and continued to do so today without the Ministries enforcing their regulations.
The recent Nyae Nyae case, found in favour of the Ju/’hoansi Traditional Authority Chief. The Directorate of Forestry was instructed to implement the Forest Act, over which they are the custodians and should be applying to protect gazetted Community Forests. However, they have failed to do so for many years until the civil case was brought to the courts and even now nothing has happened. Similarly, the Inspector General has been instructed to expedite a criminal case against illegal grazers that has been pending with the prosecutors for many years because of delays caused by lost files, delayed investigations and inaction.
It raises the question as to why legally registered and recognised San communities have to resort to going to the courts to get recourse to ongoing illegal activities in their areas, which have been well publicised for many years. Why have the authorities failed to properly investigate the situation, seemingly preferring to wait until the San communities finally take issues to court?
When these San communities have written and engaged with the Ministries about the situation in their areas and ongoing illegal activities, their letters are rarely replied to. Namibia is founded and governed by laws, and by failing to implement them, or by outright ignoring them makes a mockery of existing laws and how we treat each other in the Land of the Brave!
Is there a point at which MET will defend their globally recognised and renowned conservancy programme by supporting their registered conservancies?
Will the Ministry assist N≠a Jaqna Conservancy in recording all the illegal fences and settlements that now exist in the conservancy and limit the rightful communities’ access to their areas and resources?
Is there a point at which the Directorate of Forestry will defend the registered Community Forest in Nyae Nyae and ensure that all illegal grazing cattle are seized as they are empowered to do by law?
Is there a point at which the !Kung Traditional Authority and the Otjozondjupa Land Board will implement the law as instructed by the High Court rather than make false claims in preference for action?
Is there a point at which the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry will stop approving permits for more livestock to enter N≠a Jaqna and Nyae Nyae Conservancies, an activity which they stopped for some years, but are now continuing?
These communities and their globally recognised Namibian Conservancies have had to resort to making press statements and taking legal action in the hope that the Ministries and authorities in question act. It is unfortunate to see that seems to be the only way to have their voices heard and it should be a national embarrassment that this is how Namibia protects the rights of its most vulnerable communities Parallel to these issues a white paper on indigenous communities and their challenges and present situation is soon to be launched, with illegal settlement issues being an intrinsic part of their challenges.