Katima Mulilo — Residents of Bukalo, 40 kilometres east of Katima Mulilo, who were relocated to pave way for development by the Bukalo Village Council are blaming the same council for the delay by government to pay them for vacating their land. Sources who spoke to New Era allege that most people were not compensated because their money was given to 'ghost beneficiaries'.
Though the village council says it is aware of the allegations and has a list of some of the suspected ghost beneficiaries the Zambezi Region Council on the other hand has dismissed the charges, saying there is ignorance about the resettlement policy. "The money which was given initially was enough to compensate everyone. The IDs of people residing in town and villages were collected for compensation and one of those who were compensated has even built a permanent structure in Choto," a well-placed source told New Era.
Some of the residents have refused to vacate their land to pave way for development due to what they claim is "unfair compensation". They say compensation paid out to villagers were previously as high as N$1.4 million but this figure was cut to the bone at N$5,000.
Sources privy to information on government compensation for people told to make way for development said compensation should include a one-off N$15,000 disturbance allowance and payment for each of the fruit trees uprooted from their productive land, their pig pens and for losing chicken runs, wells and others.
A record amount of N$1.4 million was reportedly paid to one of the beneficiaries, while another received around N$600,000 to avail arable land for development by the village council.
Some residents claim they were later offered amounts ranging from N$5,000 to N$10,000 and N$11,000, which they say is not enough for them to construct decent dwellings that are on par with the homes they had before their land was taken.
Residents have now been waiting for about five years to be paid while their land has not been put to productive use, and they have approached the village council on several occasions to seek answers but to no avail.
Approached for comment the chairperson of Bukalo Village Council Charles Siyauya denied that ghost beneficiaries were paid by the council and that other people were paid more than the value of their properties. He says the regional council compensated people according to the list that was compiled by the council.
"Compensation money that was sent from the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development to Bukalo Village Council corresponded exactly with the names of beneficiaries and amounts on the list. When we received the money we requested individuals to open bank accounts and their money was automatically and directly transferred into their bank account," he said.
Surprisingly Siyauya admitted the village council is aware of ghost beneficiaries who might have benefited, and that there are some people who got more than others, but he referred all the queries to the regional council.
Siyauya said he even has a list of names containing some of the villagers suspected to be among the ghost beneficiaries.
New Era established that the first compensation was done before the council was established in 2014, and Siyauya says he is aware that people are complaining that the first group got paid more during the first evaluation, which was done by the Zambezi Regional Council.
However, Zambezi chief regional officer Regina Ndopu-Lubinda dismissed all the allegations. "The compensation policy is very clear - maybe people are not aware of this policy, but no one can be compensated more than the value of their property," she explained.
She also emphasised that the compensation process, when Bukalo was still a settlement under the auspices of the regional council, was not impartial. She explained that people received more or less the value of what they had.
"There are no ghost beneficiaries who were compensated. If someone received compensation, while not being a resident of Bukalo, it is the first time I am hearing that... For instance, one fruit tree can be worth up to N$15,000 and if you have planted more fruit trees you will obviously get more," she said.
Siyauya said the village council has been in contact with the urban and rural development ministry throughout, adding that when the funds are available people who are on the list will eventually be compensated.