Ministry responds to claims regarding Naǂajaqna Conservancy invasion.
Response: The Ministry of Environment and Tourism would like to respond to the article in the Namibian Sun of 17 November 2016 titled “Chief Arnold lashes out at Conservancy.”
In response to this article, it is important to note that Conservancies are established in accordance with the Nature Conservation Amendment Act, 1996 (5 of 1996), which empowers rural communities to sustainably manage and benefit from wildlife and tourism related activities.
In terms of this Act, local communities can form a conservancy which must have an elected representative committee, a constitution, a defined membership, defined boundary and a plan for equitable distribution of benefits.
A conservancy is formed as a voluntary process within a traditional community who defines the geographic boundaries and membership of the conservancy in consultation with their traditional authority. Upon/prior to registration the conservancy must develop a management plan, which is available to the Communal Land Board when necessary, and the latter representation from relevant traditional authorities.
In this case of the Naǂajagna Conservancy and the allocation of land as Chief Glony Arnold refers to, some individuals and farmers settled in the conservancy without permission from the relevant authorities which includes the Otjozondjupa Communal Land Board and the Ministry of Land Reform. The settlers erected structures, fences and brought their livestock into the area.
In the interest of conservation and the wellbeing of the wildlife in the gazetted conservancy of Naǂajagna, a concern was raised over the illegal settlers within the conservancy with the Communal Land Board, which is a legal body responsible for the allocation of customary land rights. It is only after the conservancy felt that their concern was not been addressed by the authority in time, the conservancy with assistance of the Legal Assistance Centre brought the matter to court which led to an eviction order to be served to the illegal settlers by the High Court recently.
It should be clarified the conservancy has indeed no powers in the allocation of land, but their interest in the allocation of land is about the impact which such allocation can cause to the management and use of natural resources, in this case wildlife and plant products.
The sentiments by the Minister of Environment and Tourism were directed to the illegal settlers and any other person with the intention of settling in the conservancy, that such actions have and will have negative impacts to the management and use of natural resources by the conservancy and not to mean that the conservancy has powers to allocate land.
In no way does this suggest that conservancies are superior to the traditional authority but these are two separate bodies with different functions and responsibilities but with a common goal of improving the livelihood of the communities.
Furthermore, the Traditional Authority is represented on the Conservancy Committee, and all activities and decisions of the conservancy are shared with the Traditional Authority. In addition, Conservancy members are subjects of the Traditional Authority and they will always ensure that their traditional leaders are informed of their activities.
The Ministry recognises that the legislation on land allocation such as the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002 stipulates under section 22 (2) that applicants must furnish information and submit such documents to the traditional authority.
Section 24 (1) of the Act stipulates that any allocation of a customary land right by the chief or Traditional Authority under section 22 has no legal effect unless the allocation is ratified by the relevant board in accordance of this section.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism will continue to work with the Naǂajagna Conservancy and the! Kung Traditional Authority in the management of wildlife and benefits thereof.
We further would like to see the conservancy and the traditional authority working together in good spirit for the common goal of improving the livelihoods of the communities in their area of jurisdiction.
* Romeo Muyunda, chief public relations officer in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, E-Mail: Romeo.Muyunda@met.gov.na