With the vast majority of the nation becoming increasingly impatient with the slow pace of land redistribution and Government’s resettlement programmes, the fencing off of land in communal areas is increasing.
What is most worrisome is that the demarcation of land in communal areas for private purposes seems to be led by influential people.The deputy minister of Trade and Industry, Tjekero Tweya and the secretary to the Cabinet, Frans Kapofi were in the news recently after it came to light that they have fenced off huge tracts of communal land in the Kavango Region for private purposes.
The two high-ranking officials received the flak from the Lands Ministry despite both claiming they had the blessings of the respective traditional authorities that have the jurisdiction over the areas where they have acquired the land.
This has prompted some parts of society in the country to accuse the Lands Ministry of interfering in the affairs of traditional authorities while another section of society has blamed traditional leaders of concocting with prominent personalities to buy favours.Public relations officer in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, Chrispin Matongela vehemently denied that the ministry has been meddling in the affairs of the traditional authorities or denying them any of their rightful duties.He claimed that traditional authorities are adequately empowered by the Communal Land Reform Act to wield power in areas under their jurisdictions.
Said Matongela: “Traditional Authorities have more powers with regards to the provisions of the Communal Land Reform Act i.e., they allocate the communal land rights; recommend all applications application fees and certificates of all customary land rights registered by the Communal Land Board, which are paid to the Traditional Authority.
"They continue to receive royalty fees from leaseholders (businesses) erected in their respective areas of jurisdiction; they are represented on the Communal Land Board, which approves all the land allocations; they decide what land will be used for which purpose in their community; they are empowered to cancel land rights in accordance with the law; they decide whether to allow members from different communities to graze livestock in their commonage; they can remove illegal fences in their community and dispose the materials thereof, etc,” Matongela added.
He noted that traditional authorities allocate any portion of land without measuring or mapping it and that is why it is necessary for the ministry to step in and help them map, verify and register the land for good administration of all communal areas of Namibia.
Matongela also shot off the notion that many of these prominent personalities that acquire land in communal areas are developing land that has, in most cases, been lying idle with no commercial gain for anyone.”Any communal land in the communal area is being commonly utilised by residents of given communities.
In some cases, land would only appear to be underutilised but this is due to lack of resources i.e. residents will move to other areas during dry seasons in search of water or better grazing for their livestock but this should not be considered as virgin land in any way,” he explained.
He added: “Alternatively, due to poor soils, community residents may fallow some portions of land to build up fertility while they practice shifting cultivation but this should not mean there is enough virgin land for anybody who so wish to occupy huge tracts of land and thus denying others access to such land claiming it was virgin land.”
The lands official issued a stern warning to anybody who would not abide by the laws of the country that govern land allocation in communal areas.“The law is clear on the allocation of communal land in all parts of the country and everybody should adhere to the Communal Land Reform Act as passed by Parliament.
However, the ministry has noted with concern that there are greedy individuals who appear to be disobeying the law and the ministry will pronounce itself very soon!” he charged.Matongela said that all the laws of Namibia apply to everyone as passed by Parliament without any exception and that the country’s Constitution is very clear that no one is above the law. He thus urged all Namibians to respect the laws of the land and “refrain from dubious activities with regards to communal lands”.
Matongela issued a stern warning to anyone who contravenes the existing laws of the country saying ‘they will be dealt with in the ambit of the law’. Erecting fences on communal land that has not been approved by a land board accumulates a fine of N$4 000 or 1-year imprisonment or both depending on the circumstances.
When found guilty, any person whose illegal fence remains standing is charged an additional N$50 for everyday that the fence remains standing. Additionally, The Chief, Traditional Authority or Communal Land Board may remove the fence or cause it to be removed and may sell the fencing material to recover the costs (refer to section 44 of the Act and section 27 of the regulations of the Act).
Traditional authorities are allowed, by law, to allocate land of less than 20ha for dwelling, farming and other traditional uses – all for personal use and not public use while any allocation exceeding that should be referred to the Lands Minister with the necessary motivation for approval.Matongela said that anyone who has previously been allocated land in excess of 20ha by any traditional authority is not expected to reapply for such land using the current structures.
“The ministry has noted that the farming component seems to confuse a lot of people simply because there are different farming systems being practiced in different parts of the country,” said Matongela.
Examples of different farming modes in the country include, crop farming, livestock farming, fish farming and mixed farming systems and the 20ha allocation is only meant for small-scale farming for only private use where individuals can make a living in their private capacity and not for common use by all the residents.
“Livestock grazing is beyond the allocations of these private allocations in the sense that it is not practical to graze livestock on a 20ha piece of land and still dwell there,” Matongela stated.
The Act empowers traditional authorities to allocate certain portions of communal land to grazing land for livestock of all the residents of a given community.
The private issues such as separating bulls from the herd can then be accommodated in the land allocated for private use only so that they do not sire for everyone in the commonage or common grazing area.
Matongela said the purpose is not to turn communal areas into some kind of commercial areas where livestock farming would be accommodated on huge tracts of land for each individual as the law regulating communal land use advocates that such land be used commonly.
A total of 70% of the population resides on communal land that only makes up 41% of the total land surface. The ministry’s role is to help the Traditional Authority to legalise all the land allocations made by Traditional Authorities in their respective areas of jurisdiction.