In an extremely swift response to media and Internet coverage, the Inspector General of the Namibian Police, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Haitota Ndeitunga, issued a press statement yesterday ordering all illegal settlers and cattle herders to vacate Tsumkwe by July 6th – or be forcibly removed.
“Some people have already erected fences and drilled boreholes; others are herding animals towards Tsumkwe as we are speaking,” said Ndeitunga. “Some members were served with notices to vacate the area but that has fallen on deaf ears.”
It is a remarkable turn-around for the police, who have been accused – along with the wildlife authorities – of turning a blind eye for years to the land invasions, land thefts and erection of illegal fences by commercial cattle owners on !Kung land in the N≠a Jaqna Conservancy.
“For those that are busy herding their animals to Tsumkwe without approval, they should turn round and return to their regions, otherwise they have to face the consequences of their action,” added Ndeitunga.
The police boss outlined the detailed process that needs to be followed by people seeking to acquire land in a communal land area – and made it clear that anyone occupying land without a certificate from the communal land boards was acting illegally.
And Ndeitunga went even further, urging the Ministries of Land and Resettlement, and Local Government and Housing to “not sit back but to intervene as a matter of urgency” – a key demand of the !Kung from the N≠a Jaqna Conservancy.
Obviously, one press statement does not mark the end of land invasions and the violation of San rights. But it is a very public pledge and the police will have to take action on July 6th if illegal settlers are still in Tsumkwe.
Whether they will continue to take on the commercial cattle farmers in the future remains to be seen. But it does seem as if the days of the police turning a blind eye to the plight of the !Kung in Tsumkwe are over.
And that is a major victory.