Land Act Guide Translated into Indigenous Languages

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By Francis Mukuzunga WINDHOEK A reference tool used by Namibian communal farmers on the land reform process, the ‘Guide to the Communal Land Reform Act’, has now been translated into six indigenous languages with a view to simplifying the Act and making it more accessible. The guide has been translated into Khoe-Khoegowab, Otjiherero. Oshikwanyama, Silozi, Afrikaans and Rukwangali with the support of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) in collaboration with the Namibia National Farmers’ Union and the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement. The Ministry of Lands and Resettlement came up with the Communal Land Reform Act three years ago with a view to bringing about a more regulated land distribution system through the land boards. The land boards were established in 12 regions of the country but had been operating without any formal training for their day-to-day operations. Their job was made easier by the publication of a simplified version of the guide that was written in layman’s language for easier understanding. Implementation of the Act often proved difficult, prompting the LAC again to come up with a translated version of the Act, which was launched on Friday by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, Frans Tsheehama. “The translated version we are launching today, therefore, interprets the law into our indigenous languages for our people to be able to read it in their own languages and to understand the law better,” said Tsheehama. He said the Act has been introduced to various land boards, traditional authorities and all who are involved in the process through training workshops. The minister also took the opportunity to appeal to members of the public to come forward and register their existing customary and leasehold land rights in the communal areas. He reminded them that the process of registering existing land rights had been extended to March 2009. “Traditional authorities and communal land boards are empowered to re-allocate any piece of unregistered land to anyone who applies after the extended period expires in March 2009,” said Tsheehama. Director of the LAC, Norman Tjombe, who was also present said the timing of the launch was good as the land reform process was being implemented at a mutually beneficial level, hence farmers needed to ensure they were acting within the confines of the law. “Since the enactment of the Communal Land reform in 2003, the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement and the LAC have been joining forces to provide training for the Communal Land Boards on the operation of the Communal Land Reform Act. By 2004, all Communal Land Boards had received training and information,” said Tjombe. While the training courses had provided positive results, there were some instances where the law was not being implemented effectively, such as illegal fencing on the communal lands and the continuous eviction of widows from the land after the death of their husbands. “In cases of illegal fencing, the land boards must order the removal of the fences, but invariably do not have the resources to do so. In cases of widows, it is that people simply disregard the law and welfare of the widows and minor children,” he explained. The LAC says it also wants communal people to derive economic benefits from their land through such ventures as tourism, private/community joint venture partnerships and other wider and diversified forms of agriculture. “There are still concerns that there is no private or individual ownership of communal lands, and therefore no tenure security, and this impedes serious investment in communal lands.” Tjombe said it was only through continuous monitoring of the implementation of the law that answers to such problems could be found, and the translated version of the Act was one such initiative.