Omuthiya – At least 32 villagers from Elavi No. 2 were arrested by the police yesterday morning after they allegedly destroyed a communal fence stretching some 50 kilometres, which they claim was illegally erected and covers almost their entire grazing areas and water points.
Among the group are a minor believed to be 11 years old and a woman whose age was not given.
A villager who informed New Era about the arrest said 32 people were transported to Tsumeb Police Station after the officers from Tsintsabis and Bravo sub-stations were called to halt the riotous situation.
Three weeks were what the villagers had given government through the Ministry of Land Reform and the Ondonga Traditional Authority (OTA) to intervene in the matter, failure of which they would take the law into their own hands and destroy the highly contentious fence.
The first attempt was supposed to have been executed on October 30, but the OTA had at the time requested the police intervention and plans were aborted.
Villagers allege that there is a certain man known to this publication as one Nangolo who the villagers accuse of instigating the idea of fencing off the land.
At the time the spokesperson of the affected villagers Lukas Kamati had warned that “if there would be delays in this matter villagers might take the law into their own hands as their animals are dying on a daily basis because there is not enough grazing land and water and their movements are now restricted by the fence erected by Nangolo.”
“We don’t want the act of 2004 to repeat, we only need these people to remove the fences and allow access for our animals to graze freely. Now they are even threatening to shoot anyone who will be found within the fenced-off land. Our lives are also at stake,” he said at the time.
In 2004 villagers had taken the law into their own hands and destroyed a fence from the same area after a certain Kalifonia had allegedly fenced off the whole area. Since then the land had not been fenced off until 2007 when he (Nangolo) allocated the land to others, who also started engaging in illegal fencing much to the chagrin of the resident community.
Meanwhile Oshikoto Region’s crime investigations coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Naomi Katjiua, said she could not confirm the issue as the matter had not yet been brought to her attention nor her office.
“I will keep you informed once I receive any information regarding the matter,” she said.
However, an officer who was at the scene confirmed the issue to New Era, saying they were called to the scene in the early morning hours before the villagers had started destroying the fence, but the villagers defied the officers’ directives to abandon their plans.
“We did not count how many they were but I can tell they were a lot. We tried to gather and advise them to desist from their actions but they defied us and proceeded to cut the fence. That’s when we intercepted and apprehended those that participated in the act, and currently they are now at the police station where each will be charged,” stressed the officer.Those arrested are likely to face a charge of malicious damage to private property.