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Illegal sale of customary land rampant

2018-06-27  Staff Report 2

Illegal sale of customary land rampant
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Albertina Nakale WINDHOEK - Transactions involving the sale and buying of customary land are on the increase, despite the act being illegal in the country. A market study conducted in 2016 by the Ministry of Land Reform found an existence of rampant informal markets where illegal land sales is taking place at monumental proportions in communal areas. The report reveals that land markets are expanding and such growth is driven largely by demand for properties to be used for business enterprises, large farms, housing and investments, often in emerging commercial and service centres. It also revealed payments for allocations are usually modest, such as N$600 or a cow for a small holding in the central-north, and N$1000 or a cow for a village in Zambezi Region. Revealing the findings in the National Assembly last week, Land Reform Deputy Minister Priscilla Boois said the increased availability and flow of money in communal areas has also fuelled land markets. The study was to determine the extent of illegal sales of communal land that are rampant in the two Kavango regions and northern regions of Namibia despite the Communal Land Act prohibiting such a practice. It was found that many Traditional Authorities are capitalising on these land use options to raise their income by selling and leasing land. Sales were seldom brought to the attention of Communal Land Boards, and rarely were they accompanied by the registration or re-registration of customary land rights. “The land markets operate undercover from the authorities, despite restriction of such enterprises,” she noted. This practice was reported to be prevalent in the Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Kavango West, Kavango East, Zambezi, Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions. Boois said illegal land sales are not an issue and are largely non-existent in the southern and western communal areas of //Kharas, Hardap, Erongo and Kunene regions. In some cases, it was found that land sales involve individuals working in cahoots with traditional authorities. Boois noted informal land sales are private transaction taking place in secrecy between two parties making it difficult for the ministry to trace and prosecute the perpetrators. Traditional authorities in most northern communal areas are said to normally receive payments for allocating a piece of land- be it a small holding or an area for a new village. The report indicates these payments have a long history and were usually paid in denominations of cattle, tobacco or other goods before the advent of money. Today they are referred to as service fees, compensations, loyalties or royalties, happiness fees, thanking fees, bribes or ombadu yekaya (from a root of tobacco). “Land was found to be used increasingly as an economic commodity with monetary and investment value. The growing number and value of commercial enterprises in communal areas has transformed the character of land value and use, and also opened up sources of income and investments for a wide range of people, including local residents, Traditional Authorities, and business people,” she revealed. Consternation followed the promulgation of the Communal Land Reform Act in 2002, since allocation fees were then interpreted as payments for land, and thus illegal. “However, the ministry in 2004 agreed to allow the payment of ‘ombadu yekaya’ in central northern Namibia. Most sales are neither reported, nor approved by Communal Land Boards. Customary land right certificates are therefore seldom issued to land owners,” Boois said.
2018-06-27  Staff Report 2

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