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Judge Thomas Masuku of the High Court of Namibia in Windhoek has ordered Herero farmers to remove their livestock from Ju/’hoansi communal lands near Tsumkwe. The judge issued his order on Friday, August 10, and it was released, according to a news report in The Namibian, on August 15.

Ancient San rock art depicting cattle, located at Twyfelfontein, Namibia

Ancient San rock art depicting cattle, located at Twyfelfontein, Namibia (photo by Hans Hillewaert in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

The news story describes the background briefly. In April 2009, the original four non-San farmers from Gam, a community to the south of the lands of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, staged an invasion with their livestock of the Ju/’hoansi territory. Others soon followed. According to Ju/’hoansi chief Tsamkxao #Oma, the grazing lands that the farmers occupied were carefully maintained, with the cooperation of local Ju/’hoan, in order to mitigate the effects of overgrazing and to ensure the sustainable uses of the land.

Having the local farmers—all Herero according to news reports from 2009—occupying their lands without their permission has posed a serious problem for the San people, according to Chief #Oma. He said, “Controlled grazing areas are rotated and properly managed to ensure sustainable viable grazing for the benefit of the local community’s livestock and to avoid the deterioration and loss of topsoil through erosion and encroachment by opportunistic plant species.”

The chief stated that the original four invaders were followed by others with their livestock, none of whom are members of the Ju/’hoansi community and are thus not entitled to the benefits of the community forest which they had illegally occupied. Last week’s news report names the original four men and the additional three who were also identified in the lawsuit. They had about 270 head of cattle and some other livestock on the Ju/’hoansi lands.

Sebastian Ndeitunga, the Inspector General of the Namibia Police Force

Sebastian Ndeitunga, the Inspector General of the Namibia Police Force (Photo by U.S. Embassy Namibia on Flickr, Creative Commons license

Chief #Oma continued the story. In December 2013, Ju/’hoan leaders sent a letter to Sebastian Ndeitunga, Namibian Police Inspector General, asking him to enforce the law by removing the invaders. Nothing happened. The leaders next sent a letter to the Office of the Prosecutor General in February 2017 asking for assistance but again nothing happened as a result.

So they sought the assistance of lawyer Willem Odendaal from the Legal Assistance Centre who filed an application in the High Court on March 22 this year. Patrick Kauta, the lawyer for the defendants, notified the court that they would be opposing the Ju/’hoansi application. However, they took no further steps so Judge Masuku acted. The judge ordered the Inspector General of the Namibian Police to investigate the possibility of issuing criminal charges against the farmers based on the provisions of Namibian laws: the Forestry Act and the Communal Land Reform Act.

He also ordered officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Forestry—the director of forestry and the officer responsible for the Nyae Nyae communal forest—to use the authority they have under the Forestry Act to detain the animals that are grazing unlawfully on the Ju/’hoansi lands. Since 2009, this website has been following the story of this invasion, the reasons for it, and the responses taken by the Ju/’hoansi. Hopefully, the officials will follow the laws as the judge has ordered.