• June 2nd, 2020

The quagmire of the ancestral land ownership of Bwabwata

To shed light on Bwabwata, we wish to inform the reader that in the first place this area formed part of the Liyeyi, later as Linyandi, and then to the name Caprivi and lastly to Zambezi Region. 
In the former German South West and former South African governments, Bwabwata was renamed Western Caprivi, administered by the former South African government on 1 September 1929. On 1 September 1929 the Caprivi Strip, as in the case of German period was included in the ambit of the South West African administration. In 1939, which is ten years later from 1929, a new regulation was put in place which mandated that Western Caprivi should remain the responsibility of the authorities in Windhoek, while the Eastern Caprivi should now fall under the control of the Minister of Bantu Affairs in Pretoria, South Africa. 
The purpose for this was that Caprivi was still under the colonising power of British South Africa and both Western Caprivi and Eastern Caprivi regardless of these decisions were still under the same one colonial power, but the distance was the reason for this to be administered into two different centres (Pretoria and Windhoek) all under one colonial government, and that is British South Africa.
It must be stated that during this time the new negotiations between the High Commissioner and Great Britain were reached. Britain tried to persuade the mandate commission of the League of Nations to cede the whole Caprivi Strip to Bechuanaland, which was under the control of the British (Fisch, 1999:38).
Bwabwata National Park is a protected area in north-eastern Namibia that was established in 2007 and covers 6,274 km². It was created by merging Caprivi Game Park and Mahango Game Reserve. It is situated between the Zambezi and Kavango East regions, extending along the Caprivi Strip. 
The Khwe, San or Saan peoples, also known as the Bushmen (also Sākhoen, Sonqua, and in Afrikaans: Boesmans, after Dutch Boschjesmens; and Saake in the Nǁng language), are members of various Khoesān-speaking indigenous hunter-gatherer groups that are one of the first nations of Southern Africa, and whose territories span into Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Angola, South Africa, etc. The Yeyi were the first to cross the Kavango Delta, which they named Zibalyanja, because of its structure resembling the five fingers of a hand and moved into the Lyiyeyi [Caprivi Strip] (Mainga, 1973:159; Fisch 1999; Tlou & Campbell 1983:90). 
Accordingly, we listened to the submission in relation to ancestral land stance as taken by the San regarding the Bwabwata claims to which we have a greater support for their claims and that is the truth. The Yeyi and the San have a far much valid claim on this area than whoever may have another view. The Yeyi arrived earlier in Bwabwata and named it with that name and then they proceeded to the land between the Zambezi and the Chobe Rivers, which they also named as Lyiyeyi after their name, present day Zambezi Region (Mainga 1973:159) and the Mbukushu referred to that name as Diyeyi (land or country of the Yeyi people (Tlou & Campbell 1980; 1983). This claim is further reciprocated based on the following confessions by His Royal Highness, George Simasiku Mamili VII of the Mafwe Traditional Authority who stated that “the rightful owners who occupied that land from time immemorial are the Bayeyi” on the Lusata Festival of Sunday 28 September 2008; His Royal Highness, Joshua Mutwa Maiba Liswani II alluded to that in 1981 that he “can only have any conversations regarding the land with the Yeyi and not any other tribe, because they are the rightful owners”, and the San of Omega 3 on their ancestral land claim regarding Bwabwata entitled “Khwe tribe wants freedom on ancestral land – The Namibian July 10, 2019 – Omega – 3 is situated in the Bwabwata National Park. 
The Khwe in their ancestral land claim emphasised the whole truth that they lived with the Yeyi tribe in Bwabwata. Mukwe, meaning your relative or family member, is a Yeyi name. Immediately after the early years of independence and Namibia had to demarcate constituencies, Mukwe was honoured as a constituency falling under Caprivi Region referred to as Region 1 in 1994, to which the Caprivi regional leadership and its populace were content with.     
But the stance from the Bayeyi has always been that all the other tribes who found them in Bwabwata (meaning a paradise of wildlife in Yeyi language) and the former Lyiyeyi (present Zambezi Region) which covers the area between the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers (Mainga, 1973:159); is to live in peace and harmony with other tribes, since they have all become a heritage of this territorial occupation. See also Shiyeyi Dictionary (2016) Shiyeyi orthography (2016) Subiya Orthography (2019) and Cifwe Orthography (2019) by VN Sazita and the Cultural Identity and Education of the Bayeyi tribe (2010); Revised second edition of the same book (2017) by SB Lwendo, Botswana Records by Campbell and Tlou (1983) and History of Botswana by C. Tlou and A. Campbel (1980) in Namibia National Library in Windhoek and other library sources.

*Dr VN Sazita is a Senior Lecturer at the International University of Management, while Dr SB Lwendo is Senior Lecturer at the University of Namibia. These are their personal views.

Staff Reporter
2019-07-19 09:57:45 | 10 months ago

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