Tension Mounts Over Land

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By Staff Writer

WINDHOEK

A TRI-BAL chief in the Caprivi region foresees a further escalation in the volatile dispute pitting Masubia and Mafwe tribesmen who in the past crossed swords over ownership of fertile land at Muyako after two farmers lost an entire crop to an illegal harvester.

The largely contentious issue is now before the High Court that has yet to pronounce itself on whether the disputed land falls under the jurisdiction of the Masubia or Mafwe tribe. The latter challenged a previous verdict that ruled in favour of its rival at Bukalo.

Masubia Chief Kisco Liswani III has named one official who is a principal party in the long-running land dispute as being the alleged perpetrator of the recent illegal maize harvest.

The chief identified the prejudiced villagers who could not reap where they sowed as his subjects, Induna Bornwell Sitali from Muyako and Induna Matongo Mubita who lives at Bukalo but like many other peasants, also have farms in the Lake Lyambezi area at Muyako.

The illegal harvest of truckloads of maize seems to intensify the deeply rooted wrangle and has resulted in a police case being lodged at Katima Mulilo, said the chief.

“One of the indunas says he lost at least a hundred fifty-kg bags from the illegal harvest involving the official who seems to act with impunity because previously, he was involved in a case in which my subjects where assaulted at Muyako,” said the chief.

Initially, a case of assault and malicious damage to property was registered with the police at Katima Mulilo. The case has since been referred to Ngoma for police investigations.

Chief Liswani III further bemoaned the fact that some Mafwe tribesmen also prevented the installation of indunas who where nominated by his authority so that they could establish two sub-khutas at Sikanjabuka and at Silumbi that are among areas under his jurisdiction.

Last month, the chief was agitated by the seemingly ill-advised allocation of a 99-year leasehold certificate to at least one communal farmer, who is also a key figure in the dispute.

At the time, he threatened to lodge an urgent High Court petition to reverse the allocation.

The allocation of the leasehold certificate to Muntu Njo Buswa in Lake Lyambezi is widely interpreted by village elders as being contemptuous of the High Court.

Muntu njo Buswa is a Subia phrase that loosely translated means ‘this area lifts people from poverty’, a reference to this fertile land that is characterised by bumper harvests. Lyambezi at Muyako is derived from the Subia word ‘Iyambezi’ meaning an area of water.

The Ministry of Lands and Resettlement says the disputed land is a ‘tricky issue’ because it appears both parties may have strong arguments in that Muntu njo Buswa falls under Liswani III while Kweha falls under the ambit of Mafwe Chief George Simasiku Mamili.

Last month, some people wondered why the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement allocated the leaseholds at that ‘sensitive point in time’ while fully aware of the pending court case.

Liswani III out of frustration withdrew two of his representatives from the Land Board in Caprivi on grounds the Board was biased against his subjects.

“We have justifiable reasons why we have decided to withdraw our representatives from the Land Board whose rulings have yet to benefit my community,” he explained.

“The Land Board appears to be one-sided and they are hell-bent on putting a wedge between us and they create problems between community members and the khuta,” he thundered.

“Why is government so silent on these blatant provocations? What do they want to see before they firmly act against these perpetrators and their provocative actions?” he asked.

Chrispin Matongela, spokesman in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement feels this disputed area should benefit both Mafwe and Masubia farmers whose land borders the disputed farming block because Lyambezi is sandwiched by two tribal areas of jurisdiction.

Matongela said the accused official took the crop of his accuser in a tit-for-tat move to the one of the indunas who had initially illegally harvested the accused’s maize crop.

He explained the accused invoked ancestral land rights saying he has for long been farming on the Namibian side of the disputed plot while his brother tills the Botswana side. He added that last December, the police were summoned to the disputed farm where after some consultations the complainant had undertaken never to farm on the disputed plot.

He says the fact the accused’s plot at Kweha borders land previously farmed by former Mafwe chief Richard Muhinda Mamili somehow lends weight to his ancestral land claim.

Though he admitted Munsu njo Buswa falls under the jurisdiction of Chief Liswani III, he said consultations between residents of Kwena, Machita, Masokotwani and Lusu established Kweha falls under Lusu on Mafwe Chief George Simasiku Mamili’s land.

For now, the Ministry of Agriculture is busy with coordinates using a Global Positioning System (GPS) with the explicit aim to resolve some of the land disputes in Caprivi.

Matongela said land boards do not give leaseholds on any disputed customary land.

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