26 November 2012

Namibia: Uukolonkadhi Evicted to Return

HIGH Court Judge Petrus Unengu last week ruled that Gabriel Venomusheko, who was chased off the Onandjandja resettlement project for allegedly publicly criticising Uukolonkadhi Chief Daniel Shooya, can return to the land.

Venomusheko exposed an apparent tribally inspired invasion of the resettlement project by Shooya, and on August 16, the Uukolonkadhi community court ordered that he be expelled from the land.

He accused Shooya of allotting land to himself and others without the consent of the original occupants of the 900-hectare piece of land.

Venomusheko said in his High Court application that he had many meetings with various ministers and senior government officials in an attempt to resolve complaints against Chief Shooya.

The most recent meeting was with Lands Minister Alpheus !Naruseb and the Uukolonkadhi Traditional Authority on July 5 where the minister was asked to intervene on behalf of thise who were resettled on the land in 1992.

Following the complaints, the Omusati Communal Land Board was commissioned to investigate the land invasion claims, which recommended that the Uukolonkadhi Traditional Authority should stop all activities pertaining to the land with immediate effect.

Venomusheko said after the July 5 meeting, he learned that Chief Shooya had gone ahead to allocate land within the 900 hectares to himself where he now has a homestead with his second wife, Pascalia Kaalombo.

Venomusheko said he had made public Shooya’s invasion to expose corruption in the administration and allocation of land in the Uukolonkadhi communal area.

In response, he was summoned before the Uukolonkadhi community court in August, where several witnesses testified against him but he was not allowed to testify on his own behalf or call any witnesses in his defence.

He said he was also not allowed to question any of the witnesses before the community court proceedings adjourned, and after the court proceedings resumed, the secretary of the Uukolonkadhi Traditional Authority, Malakia Shoombe, read the verdict, which was that he would be evicted from the land.

Venomusheko said none of the witnesses that testified against him, including Chief Shooya, took an oath or affirmation before they testified.

He said during the community court adjournment, Shooya had remained behind with other persons who appeared to be judges in the court, concluding that court was biased against him.

Moreover, he claimed that Chief Shooya counter-signed the decision of the court.

Those who presided in the court proceeding were Nestor Iipinge, Malakia Shoombe, Andreas Amunyela, Ismael Nekwaya, Katofa Lukas, Titus Kanime and Johanna Ashimbanga.

Venomusheko said only Amunyela was appointed by the Ministry of Justice as a justice of the court, and was thus the only person competent to have sat in the hearing.

He said the court verdict – to have him evicted from the Uukolonkadhi area and Onandjandja at large – was not only unconstitutional, but also ignored the desperate situation created for his family who was not party to the proceedings.

He said the eviction left him with nowhere to keep his goats and chickens, placing his farming enterprise in jeopardy.

Venomusheko is one of about 40 families that were resettled on the Onandjandja resettlement project in 1992 after the Ministry of Lands requested traditional authorities to make available communal land for resettlement purposes.

The families moved onto the project in 1993, and the land was officially handed over to the communities by the then lands minister, President Pohamba, in 2003.

Venomusheko said things started to go awry in 2003 when Shooya decided to hand out land within the boundaries of the resettlement farm to other people who he said had paid a fee of NN$600 to the Uukolonkadhi Traditional Authority.

He said the invasions had decimated the grazing area and blocked access to boreholes.

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