Kashela land dispute at Katima lingers on

By Maria Kandjungu

KATIMA Mulilo Town Council and the Kashela family have hit a deadlock in compensation negotiations over 25 hectares of land, home to the Kashelas and 50 other family members.

The compensation dispute between the two parties dates back to 2004 when council “unlawfully” rented out half of the family’s land to five tenants who have now built houses and lodges there – apparently without consulting and compensating the family.

Confidente understands that the area named Kozo Village belongs to Agnes Kashela who inherited it from her father and that she has been living there since before independence with other family members. The land was said to fall within the jurisdiction of Katima Mulilo after independence and has since been earmarked for development.

The fight has since gone as far as the Supreme Court who instructed the two parties to sit down in the presence of a mediator or judge to discuss and find an amicable solution in favour of the family, who maintain they are entitled to just compensation.

“Before my grandfather died in 2001, the Katima Mulilo Council never touched our land but the whole mess started after. They wanted to move us but they did not want to compensate us… That is when they started renting out part of our land without our permission.

“We approached different offices for help. We went to the traditional authorities; we wrote a letter to the then President Sam Nujoma, who intervened around 2006-2008. But in 2011 they offered to sell the land to the tenants for over N$2 million and until this point they did not want to compensate us,” one of Agnes’ sons told Confidente.

He added that it was in 2012 that the family decided to approach the High Court for intervention. They lost the case but appealed to the Supreme Court which ruled that they were entitled to just compensation, as stipulated in the Local Authorities Act.

The Supreme Court in 2018 ordered that the two parties meet within 10 days after the judgement to generate a joint case management report on the way forward.

Despite a couple of meetings thereafter, the two parties are yet to reach an agreement as both sides are at this point frustrated with lack of progress.

“Last year we met, and they told us they will leave the land we reside on plus my mother’s farm, and in addition they will give us four plots as compensation for the land that they have sold.

“We asked to see those four plots but that never happened. They have now sold most of the land surrounding the homesteads. Some they sold last year after the Supreme Court judgement…

“We have no problem with development and they can take some of the land and leave us with the other. Specifically, we want them to leave the homestead and my mother’s field but they still have to compensate us for the land that they have taken. The compensation policy is clear. They are dragging their feet with finalising everything and compensating us,” the son added.

Chief Executive Officer of Katima Mulilo Town Council Raphael Liswaniso acknowledged that the Kasheela family is entitled to compensation, but noted that what they are demanding is above the compensation policy.

“What they are demanding is not just. We operate within the law and the compensation policy is clear, it gives us different options in compensation but ultimately a person is compensated for land being used and that does not include land where you used to take your cows to drink,” Liswaniso stated.

He said the family is holding back the negotiation process as according to him, the sons of the landowner are being problematic.

“Sometimes we would reach an agreement with the mother but the sons would talk to her and she will revert back. Last year we asked that they consult and get back to us with their offers and final demands but until today we are waiting on them.”

According to the CEO, the Supreme Court only asked that the family be compensated as per the law, which the council never disputed but never instructed how.

“We are not denying that they have customary rights to land and if they were to be moved they are entitled to just compensation, but we are not even moving them. We just want to locate them properly in plots. We calculated that it would be 11 plots. We are also offering them two additional plots somewhere else for the land that we gave away.”

He added that previously they offered the family up to N$3 million to move them all together, but the family refused.

“We will compensate for land used, land where there are structures and development. Yes, there is land given to tenants, but this was unused land and we are offering them plots somewhere else to replace that piece of land but this family is being impossible. At this point we don’t even really know what they want,” Liswaniso said.