Police in running battle with land grabbers

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Windhoek

Police had to summon urgent reinforcements yesterday, including members of the Special Field Force, as they struggled to contain an unruly crowd of about 1,000 people who illegally occupied large tracts of land at Goreangab settlement to the west of Katutura.

At least two people were arrested as the confrontation between land grabbers and the police intensified. News of the land grab went viral on social networks yesterday, prompting some people to even leave church halfway through the service in the slim hope of acquiring a piece of land.

Maria Angula, a resident who rents a shack in Havana for N$1,000 a month, is among those who left church in a hurry and arrived at the scene with a container of paint which she used to demarcate ‘her’ plot of land.

“I came here to clear land for myself, because rent is too high. I won’t leave this place until I get my own land,” she said.

Law enforcement bigwigs, including Major-General James Tjivikua of the Namibian Police, Khomas Regional Police Commander Heinrich Tjiveze, Special Field Force Commander Andries van der Byl and City Police Chief Abraham Kanime, also arrived at the scene as law enforcement officers battled to contain a growing crowd.

Some had arrived early in the morning, armed with spades, rakes and shovels to clear land in an area close to Penduka near Goreangab. Within minutes, the group had grown into several hundred as news spread like wildfire that land was being grabbed in the area.

George Kambala, one of the founders of the Affirmative Repositioning movement, which gave government until July 31 to find a lasting solution to the land crisis in the country, was also present at the scene. “This is just a warm up to the July 31 deadline. We are not going to give in until our demand for land is addressed,” he said.

Kambala said young people, in particular, have been priced out of the property market, even though the country has enough land to accommodate every citizen.

Initially, only a few police officers were dispatched to the scene, but they soon realised that the situation was too hot to handle as the number of land grabbers grew rapidly and tension escalated.

By 14h00, about 200 police officers were on the scene to disperse the increasingly unruly crowd. They ordered people to leave peacefully, an instruction with which only a handful people complied at first.

Witnesses at the scene said the police displayed a high level of discipline and managed to contain the situation when they intensified efforts to restore order, as gradually people started moving from the site. No injuries were reported on Sunday.

The events at Goreangab came just 48 hours after government announced new measures on Friday to address the burning land issue. Cabinet had tasked a special committee to find and propose solutions.

Affirmative Repositioning leaders, including former Swapo party Youth League spokesperson Job Amupanda, are expected to meet with a committee of the Swapo Politburo today in an attempt to resolve the emerging crisis over the affordability of urban land.

Chaired by home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, the committee was scheduled to meet AR leaders last week Thursday, but the meeting was called off at the eleventh hour, as the minister was abroad.

City Police Chief Kanime condemned the attempts at grabbing land and warned that anyone indulging in such activities would be charged and dealt within the framework of the existing law.

Eventually, the police managed to restore calm on Sunday as hundreds of land grabbers dispersed in different directions. The majority of those at the scene were young people, including a number of children who came to help their parents to clear residential land.

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