50-km fence angers villagers

 

Omuthiya

Villagers at Elavi No. 2 in Oshikoto Region are up in arms over what they allege is the illegal fencing of communal
land stretching some 50 kilometres, which covers most of their grazing land, including water points.
Although villagers stressed they do not have a problem with the alleged illegal settlers residing in the area, they are only opposed to the motive behind fencing off such a large tract of land.

The fence cuts across villages such as Omatope, Onkule, Okwase, Okolo and Ohananai. The area in question falls under the Ondonga Traditional Authority (OTA) and borders Kavango West Region. At the centre of the squabble is
one man only named as Nangolo, who is alleged to have been involved in illegal fencing since 2007, defying directives from the OTA to stop with his actions.

The OTA’s many directives seem to have fallen on deaf ears as Nangolo has allegedly started dishing out some pieces of land to his cronies and family members, who have also in recent years started fencing off huge pieces
of land, thus preventing other villagers from moving around their cattle, which limits their access to better grazing and to nearby water points.

Nangolo, who originally hails from Oshigambo, is said to have been allocated a small portion of land in the area where he set up a cattle post in 1985. It is however alleged that in recent years Nangolo has claimed ownership of the land, and has been allocating land to others as well, without the consent of the OTA. He furthermore did
not even consult resident villagers.

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 enganging in illegal fencing much to the chagrin of the resident community.

The villagers through headmen have written several letters to the OTA and the Ministry of Land Reform to intervene in the matter  but so far to no avail. In letters dated July 26 and November 3, 2015, in possession of New Era, villagers had asked for an  explanation from the OTA regarding Nangolo’s stance on the land issue and on what basis is Nangolo allowed to allocate land, as well as clarify when he was conferred the title of headman in the area.

In another letter dated December 18, 2015, from the land reform ministry in its response to the disputes, villagers were informed that the Oshikoto regional office was tasked to investigate the matter and present its findings before the Oshikoto Communal Land Board for further consideration and possible action.

Efforts to get comment from the chairperson of the Communal Land Board, Sointu Mupopiwa, proved futile.
Spokesperson of the affected villagers Lukas Kamati said 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, as 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,” stressed Kamati who appealed to the Ministry of Land
Reform to immediately intervene before things get out of hand.

Last Sunday the individuals that mounted the fence reportedly fired some shots into the air when villagers tried to move close to the contentious fence but Kamati warned villagers would retaliate if they are shot at.

Sections 18 and 44 of the Communal Land Reform Act (Act No. 5 of 2002) prohibit people from erecting fences at any place in a communal area that has not been approved by the Communal Land Board.

Those violating the provisions of the Communal Land Reform Act (Act No. 5 of 2002) with regard to illegal fencing are liable for punishment of a maximum fine of N$4 000 or one year imprisonment, or both, depending
on the circumstances of the committed crime.

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