Feb 20, 2013

Rehoboth Basters: Requiring Greater Autonomy Over Land

Prominent Baster community leader says Namibian government is unilaterally declaring the land of his people as State property. 

Below is an article published by allafrica.com: 

The leader of the Baster community of the Rehoboth area, Kaptein John McNab, is accusing the Namibian government of unilaterally declaring the land of his people as state property.

McNab said that the livelihood of the Baster people was negatively affected by this state of affairs.

He said the Basters do not want to secede the area, formerly known as the Rehoboth Gebiet, from the rest of the country but only want the right to make a living on it as a unique people under their own rules and regulations, like other traditional communities.

"We only want back what is ours. We used to have jurisdiction over the Rehoboth Gebiet and lived in peace with everyone in the country. We had international recognition as a distinct community," McNab said.

Under the Baster Raad in the pre-independence era, when the Baster community was granted self-rule under the apartheid laws, landowners were prohibited to sell their property without the permission and endorsement of the authority.

However, the High Court ruled such action illegal some years ago.

McNab was also infuriated by the fact that the Groot Aub area has been declared state land and now stands to be incorporated into the Windhoek municipal area.

"The Rehoboth Baster Gemeente as the legitimate owner of the Groot Aub area, although by disregarding various international treaties and even their own constitution [it] was confiscated by a power-hungry Swapo Party government, conducted a meeting at Groot Aub on 10 February 2013," he said in a press release.

McNab also threatened to take the Namibian government's disregard of the Basters as a distinct community to the international community for intervention.

The regional councillor for the Windhoek Rural Constituency, Frederick Arie, denounced McNab's claim that Groot Aub belongs to the Baster community.

"Groot Aub resorts under the Khomas Regional Council and is currently part of my constituency but will soon become part of the Windhoek municipality," Arie said.

On claims by the Baster kaptein that plots and erven are being sold illegally by "swindlers" grabbing land in the Groot Aub area while the indigenous people remain landless and poor, Arie said that people had been warned not to occupy new plots and erven.

He said many people are now setting up structures at Groot Aub despite a warning that they should wait for the village to be proclaimed officially as part of greater Windhoek.

"We want to bring development to the people but they are jeopardising our efforts to do so through such uncalled-for acts," Arie said.

McNab also accused the police of turning a blind eye to the land grab taking place at the village, as reported cases are allegedly left unattended.

He charged that many people of Groot Aub are reluctant to openly expose the land grabbers for fear of victimisation and intimidation.

The government froze land allocations in the Groot Aub settlement, situated some 40 kilometres south of Windhoek, and adjacent areas in November 2003.

When the decision was taken Groot Aub had about 1 000 residents but the figure is estimated to have risen to over 5 000 since then.