Leaseholds Fuel Tribal Flames

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By Staff Writer

WINDHOEK

The seemingly ill-advised allocation of a 99-year leasehold certificate to at least one communal farmer who is a central figure in a long-running land dispute pitting the Mafwe and the Masubia tribes in the Caprivi Region, could see the latter lodging an urgent High Court petition.

Another issue raised over the weekend was why the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement issued land leasehold certificates for Muyako of all places at this “sensitive point in time”, while there is deafening silence on numerous applications in areas that are not in dispute.

The Masubia Traditional Authority has indicated it will submit an urgent application for the High Court to declare null and void the leasehold certificate/s granted on Muyako because there is already a land dispute over which chief has jurisdiction on this area.

Over the weekend acting Caprivi Regional Governor, Dorothy Kabula, handed over nine 99-year leasehold certificates from the Ministry of Lands to a group of applicants and one of the areas for which certificates were allocated is in Muyako.

Last year the Mafwe Traditional Authority, infuriated by the decision of the Council of Traditional Leaders to recognise the Masubia Traditional Authority’s jurisdiction over Muyako that is arguably the most fertile piece of arable land in Namibia, went to court.

Communal farmers in this area are renowned for bumper maize and pumpkin harvests but on a sad note Muyako is at the centre of a dispute that could deepen a long-running feud between the Mafwe and Masubia.

Among the areas on which 99-year leaseholds were granted, under questionable circumstances considering that even President Hifikepunye Pohamba and the late minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, John Pandeni, are cited as first and second respondents, are Muntu njo Buswa in the Muyako area. Likoki, Libindi, Lufa, Nambwa and a plot belonging to Ignatius Chunga are the others.

In the court case in which the Mafwe are the applicant, the Masubia Traditional Authority is cited as the third respondent, while Chief Kisco Liswani III is respondent number four.

Muntu njo Buswa, a Subia phrase, can be loosely translated into ‘this area lifts people from poverty’, because the area is characterised by bumper harvests. Another word for this disputed piece of land is Lyambezi from the Subia word Iyambezi, meaning an area of water.

At the hand-over ceremony were Kingsley Simandi, the former deputy director in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement responsible for Kavango and Caprivi regions and Sylverster Majakube, the Development Planner in the Ministry of Lands at Katima Mulilo.

Majakube also doubles as secretary of the 15-member Land Board in the Caprivi region.

When contacted to comment on the issue of the issuance of the land leasehold for an area/s in Muyako particularly Muntu njo Buswa, Majakube appeared ambiguous as he said Muntu njo Buswa falls out of the bounds of Muyako, contrary to geographical facts on the ground.

Majakube further claimed none of the leasehold certificates were granted for pieces of land in the Muyako area though the Masubia Traditional Authority maintains this is the case.

Speaking from his tribal palace yesterday, Chief Liswani III of the Masubia said his khuta is highly disturbed by this turn of events considering the High Court has to make a ruling on which chief has jurisdiction over Muyako after the Mafwe Traditional Authority last year challenged the Council of Traditional Authorities’ decision that had ruled in his favour.

Chief Liswani III yesterday convened an urgent meeting with a cabal of his closest advisors at his traditional court at Bukalo, where they brainstormed and unequivocally condemned the decision to allocate leasehold certificates in light of the situation.

They felt this flies in the face of justice considering the High Court has to make a ruling. He said the Ministry of Lands appears disrespectful of the High Court as it went ahead and allocated the leasehold granting sole mandate to former primary schoolteacher Bornwell Sinvula to farm in Muntu njo Buswa at the expense of others.

The chief was full of questions, saying he wants to find out whether officials at the ministry are above the High Court and what criteria was used in granting these leaseholds to farmers in an area whose jurisdiction is the subject of a legal challenge.

He also bemoaned the fact that though scores of his subjects applied, none of the beneficiaries announced by the Acting Governor are his subjects.
New Era was unable to get comment from the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement.

In 1994 the Mafwe/Masubia tribal dispute culminated in a historic accord in which the two tribes agreed to recognise and respect each other’s chieftainships and bury the hatchet. But ownership of Muyako has been a bone of contention whose origin precedes the current generation of leaders, as it was a tribal hot potato even during the reigns of former Mafwe chief Richard Muhinda Mamili and the late Masubia chief Joshua Moraliswani.

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