No less than any other court of law in the country, one would have expected that traditional courts would do a better job in administering justice.
However, if the case of two communal farmers, whose case has been before the traditional court of the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority in Epukiro, dating back to 2012, is anything to go by, one cannot but conclude that a gross travesty of justice is the epitome of traditional courts.
The matter at hand involves a land and boundary dispute in the Eiseb Block communal area in Otjombinde Constituency where two farmers came upon an uninhabited and unoccupied piece of land. After being granted permission to settle and graze their animals by a united traditional authority, an authority comprising of various traditional authorities, namely the Eiseb Ovambanderu Traditional Authority, Ovaherero Traditional Authority, the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority, the Hoveka Traditional Authority and the San Traditional Authority, the farmers have literally run into a cul-de-sac with another farmer who seems to be well-connected to some principals of the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority, claiming this piece of
The latter farmer, despite being last on the scene, has been making headway entrenching himself on the piece of land in terms of setting up the necessary farming infrastructure, including drilling a borehole. This is while the understanding has been that while the land remains disputed, and thus before the traditional authority and its court, neither parties to the dispute should effect any development.
But because of his connections to the traditional authority, the presumably favoured farmer has been entrenching himself on the piece of land. On the contrary, the other two farmers literally find themselves grounded. The traditional authority has also been threatening to confiscate their properties on this piece of land – the developments they have effected on the land.
The farmers cannot also understand what they have done wrong. While in their understanding the issue should be whether they have duly legally been granted the piece of land, the charge before this traditional court is why they chose to seek permission to occupy the land or seek grazing rights on the particular piece of land from the particular traditional authority they are claiming to have granted them the necessary grazing rights. The issue also does not seem to be whether this particular traditional authority or authorities did and do have the authority to grant such grazing rights or not. But why the farmers in the first place approached the specific authority and/or authorities.
One would have thought the issue here should have been whether the farmers indeed have been granted grazing rights or not. And secondly, whether the authority and/or authorities said to have granted these two farmers the said grazing rights, do have such right. Also, one would have thought the authority and/or authorities which are said to have granted the said grazing rights to the two farmers, should ordinarily also have appeared before and/or provided evidence to the said traditional court in this matter and thus also explain to the court/authority their legitimacy in granting such grazing rights to the two farmers rather than for the court to expect from the two farmers to explain the legitimacy of the authority that granted them the grazing rights. But no single councillor from the authorities said to have granted grazing rights to the two has ever been summoned by the court to give evidence. The matter has also been brought to the attention of the Omaheke Land Board in Gobabis, which referred it back to the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority.
There’s more to the matter. The land, which has been granted to all the claimant farmers, is said to be in the range of 10 square kilometres. One would have thought that traditional authorities can only grant 20 hectares in the communal area? How the said traditional authorities could have granted grazing rights for the said 10 square kilometres, defies logic. It is also not clear what really has been happening with the matter in question with the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority apparently also having agreed and/or granted the three claimants permission to share the 10-square kilometre piece of land, only for the latter to backtrack for unexplained reasons.
The matter is about to have another sequel on December 6 in the traditional court of the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority. But what this particular matter reveals this far is the total chaos in some of the traditional courts and the haphazard way in which land in the communal areas is administered.
One cannot but wonder what higher government authority has oversight over, especially the traditional authorities and the traditional courts and whether it is doing its work? Not only this, but it is also not clear which authorities have the power to grant land rights and where. Meantime, the Second National Land Conference that could have addressed the pertinent land question, including the administration of land by traditional authorities, remains indefinitely on ice.