KATIMA MULILO – The grandson of the first white businessman in then Caprivi Strip William John Finaughty wants compensation for the ancestral land he claims belonged to his grandfather.
Finaughty hailed from Petersburg in the then Northern Transvaal of South Africa (RSA) and came to the Zambezi Region in the early 1940s, being posted first to Kazungula and then Katima Mulilo by the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WENELA).
After a year or two in the service of WENELA, he developed interests in trading and was granted an extensive general dealers’ site at the Katima Mulilo Rapids, where the area locally known as Finaughty informal settlement stood.
He established among others a large shop, a butchery, and a workshop for repairing motor vehicles – since he was a mechanic by profession, he also owned a carpentry workshop and many stores across eastern and western Caprivi.
Finaughty had later in the 1970s flee to Zimbabwe after the colonial regime sought to kill him after they suspected him to be a Swapo spy. He however left behind a son and daughter he had with local women. Although they have all passed away they left about eight children behind, who over the years have been fighting government tooth and nail over what they regard as their rightful ancestral land.
The vast swathe of prime land in question is situated opposite the Katima Mulilo Unam campus stretching westwards to the Wenela border post and extending even further to include what is known as Katima Farm, in the north stretches along the banks of Zambezi River. One of Finaughty’s grandchildren John Finaughty claims that government promised to compensate them back in 2014.
However four years down the line they are yet to receive what they were promised.
He added he has been knocking on the Zambezi regional governor’s office but to no avail.
“At one point the governor (Lawrence Sampofu) called me to his office and told me that Cabinet has resolved to compensate the family, he even told me that there was a letter from Cabinet indicating how much we should be paid,” said John.
He further claims that despite being told about the availability of the letter he was not given the copy of the letter, he was allegedly told that they will be paid about N$7 million in compensation. The family had previously demanded to be paid about N$90 million for the prime piece of land.
“He just wrote down the figures and gave me the paper stating that this is how much you should be paid – I do not know why he did not give us the copy of the letter from Cabinet, if it belonged to the family after all,” he said.
Approached for comment Sampofu the confirmed that Cabinet approved that the grandchildren of the late Finaughty be compensated for the assets of their late grandfather. He added that the delay to compensate them is due to lack of funds.
“The government said when the money is available they will be compensated for the assets not the land. The land was given to their grandfather on a lease hold. So if the grandfather is no longer there and he left this country back in the 70s. The land went back to the traditional authority,” said Sampofu.
He also dismissed claims that he was trying to withhold the content of the letter which came from Cabinet. “Government letters cannot be given to everybody, and if I do that I will be given a penalty for that,” he said.