Namibian Police Chief Inspector Christina van Dunem DaFonsech-Shikongo is embroiled in a dispute with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia over the customary rights to a piece of land worth N$6.8 million situated close to the Omafo township of Helao Nafidi in the Ohangwena region.
DaFonsech-Shikongo is claiming the land, which measures over 4 hectares, belongs to her after she inherited the rights to the land following the death of her father Joao Manuel DaFonsech in December 2010.
She claims her father was allocated customary land rights in July 1989 by the headman of Omafo, Gabriel Katamba. In 2006, the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development proclaimed Engele/Omafo as township land.
Prior to that, the Helao Nafidi Town Council took over the land and sold portions of it. But in April last year, the Helao Nafidi Town Council invited DaFonsech-Shikongo to a meeting to indicate her land boundaries for the local authority to prepare the necessary publications and quotations for the required advertisements.
Subsequently in May 2021, a meeting was held and conducted by the council of village headmen and was attended by the church, who also claim ownership rights. The meeting concluded that DaFonsech-Shikongo is the rightful owner of the said land.
“The aforementioned outcome was duly communicated to the first defendant (town council), who despite taking cognisance of the above, failed and/or omitted to act in accordance with the plaintiff’s demand for recognition of her rights in respect of the land in question,” DaFonsech-Shikongo argued in court papers. She now wants the High Court to declare the town council’s expropriation of her land as unconstitutional, unlawful and therefore null and void.
She also wants to restore her rights to the land, or alternatively get payment of N$6 780 000. The church, however, disputes DaFonsech-Shikongo’s claim to the land. It claims the land was originally owned by the Rhennish Mission.
The missionaries, according to the church, took occupation of the land when they arrived in the country in 1907 and used it as a church mission station. During the war of Ovakwanyama and Germany, the Rhennish Mission left South West Africa (Namibia) and handed over the land to the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM).
FELM then handed over the land to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia in 1957, they claim. “The Lutheran Church in Namibia took peaceful and undisturbed possession of the land, and has enjoyed such possession since 1957 to date,” the church said.
The church claims DaFonsech-Shikongo’s father was merely allowed to set up his small residential dwelling on a small portion on the edge of the said land due to the fact that he was a trader and the particular land was near the local supermarket in Omafo.
“The plaintiff’s father used to sell his goods outside the local supermarket in Omafo, and it was thus convenient for him to stay on 6th defendant’s (the church) land. It is, therefore, incorrect that plaintiff’s father was allocated nor occupied 4. 954762 ha of the land,” noted the church. Judge Shafimana Ueitele postponed the matter to 22 March for mediation. DaFonsech-Shikongo is represented by Norman Tjombe, while ELCIN is represented by Appolos Shimakeleni.