TWENTY-SEVEN farmers in northern Namibia, found to have illegally fenced off large tracts of land in communal areas, have been issued with legal notices to remove their fences before the end of next month or face the wrath of the law.
On a visit to the North at the end of last year, Deputy Minister of Lands and Resettlement Theo Diergaardt told traditional authorities and communal land boards of the Omusati, Ohangwena, and Kavango regions that all illegal fences, especially those erected after March 2003, must be removed within the next few months.
The Ministry of Lands and Resettlement's chief development planner in the Ohangwena Region, Paulus Amaambo, told The Namibian that 17 farmers in the region had received legal notices to remove illegal fences before the end of next month.
A source at the Kavango communal land board also told The Namibian yesterday that five farmers in that region had been served with legal notices to take down their fences before the end of February.
In the Omusati Region, five farmers have been served with the same notices.
Amaambo said the farmers could appeal the notices in court, which many farmers reportedly have already done.
"This might delay the removal process as legal aspects thus have to be followed. Because if the courts still find them guilty, they [farmers] will still have the right to appeal to a higher court and even to the Supreme Court," Amaambo said.
In July last year Cabinet directed the Ministry of Lands to reinforce measures against those fencing off communal areas.
Diergaardt said the removal of illegal fences was in any case one of the major activities of the ministry.
In December last year it was decided that charges would be laid with the police if the courts rule against offenders.
Diergaardt said cases of illegal fences must be given the necessary attention of the police once cases are reported by the traditional authorities or communal land boards, and that the police must be involved at all times during the physical removal of the fences.
It was also decided that the lands ministry would request exemption from the Tender Board to appoint contractors to remove illegal fences.
There is no need for High Court orders to remove illegal fences because those may be removed after police investigations are completed.
It was also decided that money from the Communal Land Reform Fund be used for the removal of illegal fences erected after March 2003.
The Otjozondjupa communal land board was the first to have issued notices to farmers to remove illegal fences.
The board in November last year gave eight farmers notices to that effect after they had erected fences in the Na #Jaqna conservancy.