Land Rights Registration Extended

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Inhabitants of communal areas have another three years in which to register their customary land rights. The Ministry of Lands and Resettlement yesterday announced that it has extended the period for the registration of the rights after it realised that a lot of work still needs to be done in this regard. Minister Jerry Ekandjo told members of the Communal Land Boards during an induction course in the capital that the inability to have all existing customary land rights registered left the ministry with no other option but to extend the registration for another three years. The inhabitants had up until the end of February this year to register all their customary land rights and transform all Permission to Occupy (PTOs) into leaseholds. Since the process started three years ago, the 12 land boards have registered 3 164 existing customary land rights, 1 028 new customary land rights and have transferred 17 PTOs into leaseholds. In addition to this, the land boards have approved 688 new leaseholds, while 124 disputes have been reported and 44 of them resolved. Despite the success, Ekandjo said a lot still needs to be done because all existing land rights should have been registered within the previous three years. Within the next three years, Ekandjo said, the current land boards should register all existing land rights and transform all PTOs into leaseholds, handle and resolve dispute cases within their respective areas and fully implement the Communal Land Reform Act. With assistance from the European Union, the ministry will embark on a project in which mobile teams of survey technicians will assist community members to measure and map their land rights for consideration by the Communal Land Boards. The projects, which will be implemented for two years, will ensure that all existing customary and leasehold rights in communal areas are registered and certificates are issued, said the minister. The conference started on Monday and is being attended by all 160 new Communal Land Board members. Amongst others, the objectives of the five-day conference are to introduce the Communal Land Reform Act and the Operational Manual for communal land boards to the new members, to discuss and finalise the second Communal Reform Amendment Bill and to discuss the implementation of the Registration of Existing Communal Land Rights Project. Members of the boards made proposals to be included for amendment last year when they were called to identify loopholes in the Act to prepare for the amendment of the Act, some of which included the size of the land. The rights that may be allocated under the Act include a right to a farming unit, residential unit, rights of leasehold and a right to any other form of customary tenure that is recognised and described by the minister in the government gazette. The Act also prohibits the erection of fences, unless in cases where permission is sought, and also grazing in the commonage by non-resident stock in a particular community. It also limits the right to graze in the commonage to residents who have 300 large stock and 1 800 small stock.