Kawana defends Pohamba’s landBy: CATHERINE SASMAN
PRESIDENTIAL Affairs Minister Albert Kawana said in Parliament on Wednesday that media reports which insinuated that President Hifikepunye Pohamba had received land from the Ukwangali Traditional Authority in return for his assistance to push out illegal grazers should not go unchallenged.
“We need peace and stability in our country for the sake of development, for the sake of fighting poverty, hunger, disease, unemployment and underdevelopment. We should all be partners and agents of development,” Kawana said
“Sensational reporting is destructive and retrogressive, therefore, it should be condemned by all patriotic Namibians in the strongest possible terms, the minister added.
Ukwangali chief Daniel Sitentu Mpasi revealed in a Kavango magistrate’s court hearing the illegal grazing case, that he had given Pohamba and 20 other high-ranking officials land.
During the trial, it was put to him that he chose only to evict poor farmers as opposed to politically connected officials.
Kawana asserted, as he had done earlier when asked for comment on the revelation, that everyone has the right to live and settle in any part of the country, and also stated that Pohamba had fully complied with the Namibian Constitution and the Communal Land Reform Act.
Pohamba had applied for a “plot” or “site” near the Kavango River in 2008, which was awarded to him by the traditional authority.
Kawana said the application was approved with the condition that the land must be used for the purpose indicated in the application, which was given as crop production and the erection of a residential unit.
Another directive was that the land cannot be sold, and that it must be returned to the traditional authority if the applicant – Pohamba – is not longer interested in using it.
Chief Mpasi and the chairperson of the Ukwangali chiefs’ council signed the approval.
“It is therefore misleading and indeed false to create an impression that the granting of the plot was done between the chief and the President. This plot in question was allocated by the Ukwangali Traditional Authority,” Kawana said.
When the land was approved, he said, Pohamba asked that the plot be clearly demarcated, after which customary land rights were registered with the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement.
The land awarded to Pohamba covers 13,8 hectares and the demarcation was fully paid by the President himself, which amounted to N$14 582,47, said Kawana
The Communal Land Reform Act of 2002 stipulates that traditional authorities can only allocate land up to 20 hectares. This Act came into force in 2003.
Contrary to impressions being created by the media, said Kawana, the lack of grazing for people living in that part of the country has received Cabinet attention, and a committee of senior ministers was set up to advise Cabinet on the situation.
In fact, he added, a temporary solution was found in that some of the cattle that illegally grazed in western Kavango were allowed to graze temporarily on Namibia Defence Force farms at Mangetti pending a lasting solution.
“[The] cases of illegal grazing in western Kavango have nothing to do with the President,” he emphasised.
Some of those who received land along with Pohamba include Ohangwena Governor Uusko Nghaamwa, Transport Minister Erkki Nghimtina, former Namibian Defence Force commander Dimo Hamaambo, ambassador to Russia Ndali Kamati, former ambassador Shapwa Kaukungwa, Home Affairs Minister Rosalia Nghidinwa and Agriculture Deputy Minister Peter Iilonga.
In April this year Deputy Minister of Trade Tjekero Tweya, Defence Minister Charles Namoloh, Police Chief Sebastian Ndeitunga, Kavango Police Commissioner Olavi Auanga, and a certain Peter Simbwangu, a high-ranking official in the Defence Force, were also accused of fencing off communal land in Kavango.
Following those reports, Pohamba asked Lands Minister Alpheus !Naruseb to investigate and he submitted a report for the President’s consideration.
Pohamba has not commented on the findings, nor has his actions been made public.
The Communal Land Reform Act prohibits the fencing of communal land.
!Naruseb earlier admitted that there is “some degree of inconsistency” in the manner illegal fencing in communal areas is dealt with, but denied that the ministry is incapable of dealing with the matter.
The ministry by law is not authorised to remove illegal fences; this is the prerogative of the various traditional authorities presiding over communal areas alongside the communal land boards.
But so far, no one has been taken to task for putting up illegal enclosures on communal land.
Those who had put up fences before the introduction of the Communal Land Reform Act were given until February 2011 to apply for the recognition and registration of their fences.
The Lands Ministry developed guidelines on the removal of the fences during the 2012/13 financial year which were to be immediately implemented, but this has been postponed to the end of February 2014, which is the deadline for the submission for existing customary land rights by the ministry.
It is a punishable offence to erect or keep unauthorised fences on communal land. It is also an offence to retain any existing fence for more than 30 days after the application to retain it has been refused by the relevant communal land board.
A violation in this regard can be punished by a maximum fine of N$4 000 or one year’s imprisonment, or both.