Back to court in fight to evict illegal settlers

07 December 2018 | Justice

The legal battle to evict seven Gam farmers accused of illegally occupying parts of the Nyae Nyae communal conservancy for nearly a decade is set to continue next year.

A High Court order to evict the farmers was revoked earlier this year because of technical issues.

One of the arguments raised by the respondents in the case is that they live at Tsumkwe and not in the Nyae Nyae conservancy. The Tsumkwe settlement, which was proclaimed in 2002, falls under the control of the Otjozondjupa regional council.

The farmers named as respondents in the case are Tjizera Kavezenji, N. Ngombe, Tjitindi Tjazapo, Kaapuhu Majuva, Kauheva Vetiaje, Murambi Ndjandereeko and Matiro Dikuwa.

They further argue that the livestock that form part of the court proceedings - close to 460 cattle, goats, donkeys and poultry - were acquired from members of the Nyae Nyae community and as such “the cattle already had grazing rights” there. They argue that before Tsumkwe was proclaimed a settlement it was part of the communal area falling under the jurisdiction of the Ju/'Hoansi traditional authority. As such, they derived grazing rights in the communal area by virtue of being lawful occupants of Tsumkwe.

The respondents also argue that there was no condition of sale that the cattle should stop grazing in the area after their purchase.

They say if the court evicts them they would be landless.

Such a judgment would thus have “drastic consequences and does not promote the overall purpose of the Communal Land Reform Act”, they claim. Another argument is that the action against them is unfair and discriminatory, as no reasons have been given why they have been singled out from others in a similar position.



Decade-long battle

In his founding affidavit, Chief Tsamkxao ‡Oma stated that the unlawful occupation of the conservancy started in April 2009. By May 2009 it was estimated that there were 300 farmers with about 1 100 livestock illegally occupying the area. “None of the offending respondents had or have lawful authority to do so. They did not seek permission from myself, the Ju/'Hoansi traditional authority or any other permitting authority.”

The chief said a protracted battle to evict the farmers ended in deadlock, which left the traditional authority no option but to take the matter to court. One of the concerns of the community is that the alleged illegal settlers “do not care where their livestock is herded, whether it be in sensitive zoned areas, eco-tourism areas, hunting areas or even settlement areas with crops of local communities living there; their cattle and other livestock roam with impunity.” The chief said the impact of the unauthorised occupation and grazing was destructive and undermined the objectives of the community conservancy and community forest. Several meetings with authorities, ranging from the Otjozondjupa regional governor to the police, the regional council and the prime minister's office, were to no avail, the chief said. Other respondents in the matter are: the ministers of land reform, safety and security, environment and tourism, and agriculture, water and forestry; the prosecutor-general; the inspector-general of the Namibian police; the Otjozondjupa communal land board and the director of forestry.



Nowhere to go

In June, Namibian Sun reported that the seven farmers involved in the matter are part of the Ovaherero families who were repatriated from Botswana, where their ancestors had fled to during the German-Herero war from 1904 to 1908. They were relocated in Gam in 1996.

“We are not people from Botswana; we are Namibians who have returned home. Now we have nowhere to go,” they said. They told Namibian Sun in April that they wanted the government to recognise them as Namibians. They complained that they were ignored, were never fully integrated and their children had no legal rights in Namibia. Yesterday, the Legal Assistance Centre, which is helping the conservancy with their court case, submitted the joint case management report and the case is set to continue next year.





JANA-MARI SMITH

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