Chief bemoans prolonged illegal grazing cases

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Chief bemoans prolonged illegal grazing cases

TSUMKWE – Chief Tsamkxao ‡Oma Bobo of the Ju’/hoansi Traditional Authority says he is concerned that cases against illegal farmers in the conservancy are still not resolved while moving into the area continues.

Speaking to New Era recently at Tsumkwe, the chief said while outside farmers, connected business people and officials break the law for their slice of land or timber, the !Kung San of N‡a Jaqna Conservancy in Tsumkwe West and the Ju’/hoansi San of Nyae Nyae Conservancy in Tsumkwe East have been following the law to their detriment.

“People are still coming here to graze illegally in the area that is supposed to be preserved for the future. Even though cases are still in court. We are concerned about the prolonged decision-making processes,” he said.

Chief Bobo said the number of illegal settlers is concerningly increasing and contributing to gender-based violence.

“Those people have now introduced shebeens that sell drugs and alcohol. Our people have become violent due to alcohol. This is a very painful situation. Even in the Tsumkwe settlement, people who have land are not from here,” he explained.

The chief said his people in the villages are doing well and have a peaceful life despite social challenges as there is no drug and alcohol abuse in the villages compared to Tsumkwe.

“Those people are destructive and we have no power to control them. We do not know how they get here. We have pending court cases against certain farmers and until now the cases are not finalised, which makes it difficult for us to take actions against those who are still coming,” he stated.

He added the traditional authority is concerned about the lack of cooperation between them and the local government in terms of land allocation.

“The local government does not consult us when it comes to land allocation in Tsumkwe and that too adds problems to issues that we are battling in court,” he explained.

In July 2015, the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Ju’/hoansi Traditional Authority opened a case against four individuals after their cattle were recorded grazing within the conservancy without the permission of the Ju’/hoansi chief. 

Two of the four accused were farmers who took part in the 2009 “invasion” of Nyae Nyae, where the veterinary fence was cut near Gam and almost 1 000 cattle were illegally brought into the area (the perpetrators were later compensated for the eventual seizure of those cattle). 

In April 2016, after complaints by chief Bobo about the lack of police investigations in the case, Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga intervened and investigations were promptly carried out. With the first hearing in Tsumkwe Magistrate’s Court set for August 2016, the process seemed back on track. 

However, this case has not been concluded after six years and many postponements. A second case was opened in late 2016, regarding two individuals accused of illegal grazing, and had its first hearing in 2020.

A parallel civil case against seven individuals in the High Court (including four farmers from the 2009 “invasion”) was decided in favour of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in 2018, evicting the seven from the conservancy. 

However, after complaints from the accused’s lawyer, the conservancy agreed to hear the case again in 2019. The original ruling in their favour was withdrawn, and the case was dismissed due to a poor-quality signature on an affidavit commissioned at Tsumkwe police station.