Land legislation under review
The accessibility to land for ordinary Namibians has long been a heated issue and recently, there has been an upsurge in land grabbing and illegal settling, with residents in towns such as Keetmanshoop, Oshakati and Arandis settling on land which was not allocated to them by the local authorities. In order to address the issue, the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement is currently reviewing legislation on land.
“The Ministry through the current Land Bill which is before legal drafters for scrutiny, is in the process of amending various sections of the current legislation on land to plug loopholes and bring it into harmony with various policy and administrative changes,” said Alpheus !Naruseb, Minister of Lands and Resettlement in Parliament this week. The review of the National Resettlement Policy and resettlement criteria is also under way, !Naruseb said.
The lands minister further urged occupants of communal areas to register their existing or new customary land right as it guarantees secure tenure “in perpetuity for the family.”
“I particularly call upon women and other vulnerable citizens to ensure that their rights are secured by registering them through their respective Communal Land Boards,” !Naruseb said.
Each person in a communal area is allocated 20 hectares as per a decision by the Ministries of Land and Resettlement, and Agriculture, Water and Forestry. However, there is no limit in terms of size which may be allocated in communal areas; the 20 hectares is only the limit which traditional authorities may allocate while applications above 20 hectares are referred to the lands ministry for approval.
“The decision to empower traditional authorities to allocate customary land rights to the maximum of 20 hectares in communal areas was arrived at to protect the commonage from being fenced off by a few individuals for their personal and individual use and to protect the commonage from being depleted through over grazing. You will agree with me honourable members that if no maximum size was set in which traditional authorities may allocate land, today there would be no piece of land in the communal areas that can be referred to as a communal area or commonage,” said !Naruseb in his address to Parliament. He, however, said it is not practical that everyone in the communal area is having a 20 hectare piece of land. “The current law states that those who held existing customary land rights before the enactment of the Communal land Reform Act (Act 5 of 2002), can apply to register their rights in entirety provided such were properly allocated by their recognized Traditional Authorities. For the new applications of customary land rights which exceed the maximum of 20 hectares, they need to do so through their recognized traditional authorities which will send them to the Minister for approval through their respective communal land boards.
“The 20 hectares is not meant for private or individual livestock grazing purposes in the communal area because the communal area is there for everybody within a particular communal area to graze. It seems the outcry about the 20 hectares in some quarters of our society is based on the fact that some of the communal area dwellers want to fence off land for private grazing leaving others with no common grazing space, hence the claims that 20 hectares is too small and unsustainable,” !Naruseb said.
The Ministry of Land and Resettlement is also currently drafting revised expropriation criteria to fasten the farm land acquisition process.