Scramble for Wenela Land

A dispute over the ownership of a vast swathe of prime land at Wenela has pitted the Katima Mulilo Town Council against the Zambezi Regional Council. The spat has now reached boiling point with a growing chorus of reciprocal recriminations by senior officials of the two institutions, who are mandated to promote development in the region.

This vast swathe of prime land is situated opposite the Katima Mulilo Unam campus stretching westwards to the Wenela border post and extending even further to include what is known as Katima Farm, in the north.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Katima Mulilo Town Council, Charles Nawa, who conceded that the area in question is state land, said the fact that it falls under government does not qualify it to belong to the regional council, adding that the land in question was in the process of incorporation into the boundaries of the town.

“The land belongs to the State. It does not belong to either the regional council or town council currently. The land was gazetted to become part of the Katima council land. We are just waiting for a certificate from the ministry of lands for the land to fall within the town council (sic),” said Nawa.

Chief Regional Officer, Regina Ndopu-Lubinda, maintains that the land belongs to the government and that documentation exists to support the claim. She showed the title deed and official correspondence from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Peter Mwatile, addressed to the town council and instructing council employees and other residents on the land to vacate the area, as far back as 2012.

However, a defiant Nawa said: “There’s no clause which says [the regional council] must own land. Even the title deeds are signed by the department of works and this department is not even fully decentralised. Maintenance is the only section that is decentralised to the regional council.”

Ndopu-Lubinda said Nawa appeared to be confused by the extent of the town’s boundaries.

“An extension of the town does not make land to belong to the town council [automatically], especially land that is already registered like this land. This is where the confusion lies. As the regional council we have recommendatory powers and then the ministry endorses [what we recommend]. Even Windhoek has extended its boundary, but you don’t hear the City of Windhoek claiming state land,” said Ndopu-Lubinda.

Nawa though believes both institutions are parallel authorities and that the eviction orders issued to the alleged illegal settlers are in fact unlawful. “They claim to be the government, that’s the mistake they are making. If they are saying they are the government, what about us? To claim that they have power over the land is wrong. There is no provision in the [law], which says they must own land. We can even challenge that in court. The right procedures to evict people were not followed. We are all reporting to the minister Namoloh. We have aised people to stay put,” Nawa said defiantly.

He however admitted that people settled on the farm illegally, but added that the settlers were in fact doing both government and the NDC a favour since the existing properties are being guarded by them.

“People moved there in good faith, because they are now guarding the property of the NDC. People just went and started staying there because they don’t have accommodation. There are about 56 people and the majority are not council employees contrary to what some are saying. There are only three council employees there,” according to Nawa.

He also accused the regional council of applying double standards through what he said is its failure to issue the same eviction order to a white person on the same land. “The regional council is only chasing black people, but the white person staying there was not given any eviction notice. The constituency councillor Mr Sibalatani was not even part of the whole process. There is an interest by some regional council employees to occupy those houses,” said Nawa who also revealed the names of the employees he alleges to be interested in occupying the houses themselves.

According to Ndopu-Lubinda following the official correspondence from the ministry of works, a meeting was called between the regional council, the town council and a lawyer from the Office of the Attorney-General where an agreement was reached that the land belonged to the government. “The regional council, town council and the Office of the Attorney-General met where it was confirmed again that the land belongs to the state. We agreed that staff of the town council and other residents should vacate the houses. This was also endorsed by the governor and the mayor,” said Ndopu-Lubinda. She said the fact that the town council is now dragging its feet on the issue is tantamount to sabotaging the developmental efforts of the government. “When we take a resolution it should be binding. With this project we are talking about providing employment to countless people and producing enough food for the whole country. Why do we have to derail such a project just because a few council employees and their cohorts are occupying government land illegally.”

Source : New Era