Review Communal Land Act – Expert

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By William J. Mbangula OSHAKATI The Head of the Social Science Division, Multi-Disciplinary Research and Consultancy at the University of Namibia has called for review of the Communal Land Reform Act in order to impose a limited number of cattle for farmers. Speaking on the topic “Grazing land dispute between Ovakwangali and Ovakwanyama and Ovandonga ” in Mpungu Constituency in Kavango, Martin Shapi recommended the registration of existing customary land as of paramount importance in order to determine access to customary land rights. He was addressing a research conference at the Unam Northern Campus recently, which was held under the theme: “Poverty Reduction Strategies Towards the Achievement of Vision 2030”. He conducted the research with specific objectives to determine the origin of the dispute which started way back in 1990s, the number of livestock with regard to the carrying capacity of the land and to assess future potential conflicts. Shapi, who visited the disputed area from February 8 to 15 and conducted telephonic interviews on the matter, cited some of the causes of the dispute as illegal entry into the Kavango Region, unruly behaviour by cattle herders while in the Kavango by bragging they liberated the country, beating residents, shooting their dogs, entering houses whilst armed, and not showing any respect for their hosts in an accepted traditional manner, refusal to pay compensation for damages caused to crops, stock theft, the fact that the “settlers” were already given land of 120 km by 50 km, the population increase of the “settlers” and high prevalence of illegal fencing by wealthy communal farmers from Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions. On whether the Ukwangali Traditional Authority has acted within its rights to expel illegal cattle herders, Shapi noted that the Traditional Authority as a statutory body passed by an Act of Parliament (Articles 102 (5) and 66 of the constitution) and other relevant Acts, the Ukwangali Traditional Authority has the rights of access, withdrawal, management and exclusion. However, Namibia being a unitary and sovereign state in diversity in terms of culture, norms and value, this can also be misinterpreted. Some cattle herders can exploit the constitutional provision, which guarantees the right of citizens to live wherever they wish, although this should be done legally. According to the Researcher, in 2003/2004 there were 28 cases of illegal fencing/land disputes in Ohangwena region, 17 in Oshana, 7 in Oshikoto, one in Omusati and three in the Kavango region. In the following year (2004/5) Ohangwena had one, Oshana 22, Oshikoto 11, Omusati 15 and Kavango 7. The land is regarded as an essential asset, without which there cannot be life. Namibia has a dual land ownership of which 41% is communal and 44% is commercial. The rest is either conservation or diamond concessions areas. Between 60 and 70% of the population live on the communal land. The research conference here which is held every year and invites speakers on various topics geared towards the realization of sustainable economic and social development (issues on health, education, agriculture, rural development, basic infrastructure, governance, economic and financial management, and many others) was officially opened by the Director General of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Helmut Angula. He urged the participants to take advantage of the numerous surveys conducted in the country either by the government or by other institutions to do an in-depth analysis of the poverty situation in the country and to come up with definitions and measurements relevant and applicable to the situation in the country. Such analysis, Angula added, should inform the nation on the nature and causes of poverty in Namibia and provide the Government and stakeholders with the possible course of action to be taken to reduce it. “As institutions of higher learning and members of our society endowed with knowledge and skills in research and other competencies, the nation is relying on you not only to produce academic research papers and training of human resources for the labour market, but also to advise the Government on employment-generating strategies based on empirical research findings,” said the NPC Director General.

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