Mudumo Re-Location Attempt a Non-Starter – Herunga

The Minister of Environment and Tourism says it does not make sense for community members to insist that they should be relocated into national parks because everyone that previously resided in such reserves will start claiming their ancestral land.

The Environment Minister, Uahekua Herunga’s remarks follow demands by some community members of the Mayeyi Khuta who were uprooted from Mudumo National Park in the Zambezi Region by the colonial regime over three decades ago, but now want their ancestral land returned.

Herunga said there are also other Namibian groups, in particular the San-speaking communities, who have for years have been demanding their ancestral land in the Etosha National Park which is one the country’s famous and largest tourism attraction parks.

“There are a lot of people who want to go back into the parks since it’s their ancestral land. We need to be careful as government, if we allow one group to even get a hectare of land in a park, then you will have to allow other Namibians to claim for land in other parks,” he remarked.

Although Herunga was hesitant to point out the way forward for the current demonstrating Mayeyi Khuta members who want to be relocated into the Mudumo National Park, he said a team from the ministry is currently in the Zambezi region consulting with the concerned traditional authority as well as the governor’s office.

Colgar Sikopo, Director of Parks and Wildlife in the Ministry of Environment, also confirmed that a delegation has been sent to the region to find a lasting solution over the land issue, which has been dragging on for over a year now.

“Discussions are underway. Once we receive a report from our officials on the ground, we will then communicate our official position,” Sikopo said.

Close to 100 villagers were removed from their ancestral land in the 80s by the apartheid administration to pave the way for the Mudumo Reserve which at that time was proclaimed a national park.

The villagers were relocated to Liyanshulu Village in Linyanti Constituency where they settled for over 30 years until last year when they demanded that government relocate them back to their ancestral land in Mudumo. They are invoking their ancestral rights over the park.

Their claim was ignited when officials from the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement visited Liyanshulu to register people for land rights in the communal areas last year.

Confirming the claim, Linyanti and Judea Lyamboloma constituencies councillor, Cletus Sipapela yesterday said: “When the ministry of lands came to register people at Liyanshulu, the group that previously lived there told those who were relocated from the park that they cannot be registered there because their ancestral land is in the park. And that is when the scramble started.”

Without any authorisation, the affected community decided to leave Liyanshulu Village and started squatting on a piece of land near the park, which teems with dangerous wildlife such as elephants, hyenas and lions.

Currently the group is without water and their children have to walk long distances to and from school at Liyanshulu through the game-rich forests.

Last week, the group held a peaceful demonstration demanding answers why the government is “taking long” to respond to their plight.

Sipapela who last week went to see the group sympathised with them.

“I think it is a matter of patience. It is true one can understand the pressure. They are dependent on farming for their livelihood.

“They need land to plough, as people in this part of the country are currently preparing their fields for ploughing season,” said Sipapela.

Currently the group gets some water from the Roads Contractor Company (RCC) that is busy constructing the MR125 road in the area.

Chief Boniface Shufu of the Mayeyi Traditional Authority suspects someone could have instigated his subjects to pack up and leave their homes.

“I told them to go back to their village but they refused. They told me they want to go back to their ancestral land. The Minister of Environment and Tourism (Uahekua Herunga) took down their demands and promised to solve them. Maybe there is someone pushing them,” the chief said.

Source : New Era