Land disputes proliferate in Zambezi

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By George Sanzila

KATIMA MULILO – The Office of the Zambezi Regional Governor, Lawrence Sampofu, has been inundated with complaints lodged by residents over communal land disputes.

These disputes arise mainly over communal boundaries. This became evident during a recent workshop organised by the Zambezi Regional Council to sensitise members of constituency development committees (CDC) on the roles of the regional council.

It also became evident that some of the residents’ concerns are not channelled through constituency councillors, as per procedure – a trend that has led to a pile up in the number of unresolved cases.

According to Risco Maloboka, the personal assistant to the regional governor, residents often break protocol by bypassing both CDCs and councillors resulting in the Governor’s Office being overwhelmed with grievances over land. “We are facing a serious problem. Many times, residents bypass their councillors and go straight to the Office of the Governor. The councillor should be informed regarding any matters in the constituency. If the concern is not addressed, then it can be forwarded to the Office of the Governor,” Maloboka reminded over 100 CDC members that attended the workshop.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the adviser to the regional governor, Ignatius Nkunga, who likened the Office of the Governor to a Khuta, given the volume of boundary and land disputes.

“As my duty entails, gauging whether grievances taken to the office need the governor’s intervention or not, we are confronted with many issues such as boundary and land disputes. Sometimes I even joke with the governor that the office has now become a Khuta,” said Nkunga.
Chief Regional Officer, Regina Ndopu-Lubinda, the administration head of the region – whose main role is to plan and implement the development of the region – outlined the functions of various leaders in the hierarchy of the regional council.

“The governor is the political head, the chairperson is the head of the regional council and oversees, with the management committee, the execution of council resolutions and approved policies and activities,” noted Ndopu-Lubinda.

Ndopu-Lubinda revealed at the meeting that Kongola, a village located about 110 kilometres west of Katima Mulilo, has been declared a settlement, next in line to become a village council following the declaration of Bukalo as a village council last year.

“Bukalo has been a settlement area for so long and last year we declared it a village council. We have also declared Kongola as a settlement area and eight more settlements are in the pipeline,” announced Ndopu-Lubinda.

She stated that in as much as the regional council is tasked with the development of the region, the function of the constituency development committee remains critical. “The function of the CDC is very critical, as any development idea comes from them. They are the ones in the constituency who hold meetings with the community regularly,” elaborated the Chief Regional Officer.

Some CDC members complained that their constituencies were being sidelined regarding development and social amenities. Of particular interest, however, was the San community representative in western Zambezi, who complained that the community felt torn between the two regions of Kavango East and the Zambezi, adding that no consultations were made with the community when the delimitation commission decided to shift the border of the area. “We are suppressed. We don’t enjoy the same development as other areas. They have declared our area as a park and no consultations were made when they decided to shift the border,” complained a CDC member from the area.

Ndopu-Lubinda was, however, quick to note that the declaration of areas as settlements was a cumbersome process.

“Sangwali, Lusese, Ngoma and Chinchimane are all going to be declared settlement areas in future. The budget we have right now is for planning. It’s a long process with serious implications such as people moving out and relinquishing their rights over land. When looking at development sometimes we deal with issues of equity. We cannot construct 100 toilets in an area and then they become a white elephant,” she said. On the concerns of the San community, Ndopu-Lubinda noted that government has always regarded the San community as a special group. “Nationally, the San community is regarded as marginalised. The Office of the Prime Minister is even specifically dealing with their issues. The food programme currently running is only being given to the San community and has stopped for everybody else. At our regional council, it’s the only group of people we buy coffins for. It’s not even a policy but we felt we needed to help as a regional council,” further stated Ndopu-Lubinda.

She said that as an administrator, her interests were confined to the ease with which service delivery is dispensed through the demarcation of the regions and not based on political boundaries. “Unfortunately for us, we deal with administration boundaries and not political boundaries. Our concern is about services than tribal grouping. On consultations, we believe that you have sanctioned your councillors to take a decision on your behalf as your representative but even then we have always consulted,” she said.

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