WINDHOEK – Ohangwena Region leads the list of regions with the highest number of illegal fencing in communal areas, according to data released at the 2nd National Land Conference currently being held in Windhoek.
According to statistics presented yesterday by Maria Kasita on behalf of traditional authorities and communal land boards at the conference, Ohangwena tops the list with 107 cases reported between 2012-2015.
It is followed by Otjozondjupa with 58 cases recorded during the same period, Omaheke (48), Omusati (42), Kavango East and West (36), and Oshikoto (16).
Kasita said the challenge in removing these illegal fences is the blurry mandate of who between the traditional authorities or communal land boards has the power to remove such structures.
The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) has called for the removal illegal fencing in communal areas, saying they increase inequality between Namibians - those that can afford fencing materials and those fenced out.
LAC’s coordinator on land environment and development Willem Odendaal said during his presentation at the land conference on Tuesday that illegal fencing in communal areas increases grazing pressure and degrades the remaining commonage.
He said illegal fencing in communal areas does not only affect grazing for the poor but it also prohibits poor people from accessing firewood, thatching grass and even veld food that the poorest members of traditional communities depends on for their livelihood.
Odendaal added that illegal fencing in communal areas also interferes with the movement of wildlife.
He said if ignored, illegal fencing is effectively rewarded - leading other fenced off areas to ensure they have access to some part of the commonage.
Odendaal called on the ongoing land conference to implement the resolution of the 1991 land conference that stated that illegal fencing of land must be stopped and all illegal fences must be removed.
He said every communal land board must produce a map of all legal fences and make it available to the public by 30 November in order to hold traditional authorities and communal land boards accountable.
In the past wealthy politicians have been accused of fencing off massive land, at times measuring over 3000 hectares, in communal areas.
Similarly, traditional leaders have been accused of fencing off communal land and selling it to wealthy business people to make money for themselves.
Many region, in their position papers to the conference, requested that illegal fencing be criminalised so that culprits are dealt with criminally instead of merely having their fences removed.