WINDHOEK - The Windhoek High Court returned the occupancy rights of the Purros Community Campsite and Bush Lodge to the Purros Conservancy Committee after the latter successfully lodged an urgent application to restore their undisturbed and peaceful possession of the premises situated at Purros village.
Purros village is located in the Kunene Region. The committee lodged the application after the former manager of business, Peter Uaraavi and his sons, Unaro, Kaunda and Katutjiua took possession of the business on June 9, claiming it as his own. The committee asked the High Court to order the Uaraavi clan to restore the undisturbed possession and occupation of the lodge area to the committee and to interdict and restrain them from unlawfully interfere with the committee’s possession and occupation of the lodge area. They also asked for a cost order against the Uaraavis.
Deputy Judge President Hosea Angula granted the orders prayed for on July 19 and delivered his reasons late last week.
According to the judge, it is the applicant’s (committee) case that it has been in lawful and undisturbed possession of the campsite and lodge since 2003, although they initially only operated a campsite until 2008 when they commenced to operate a lodge business, consisting of seven rooms when the business was renamed the Purros Community Campsite and Bush Lodge.
Peter was employed as manager for the business at a community meeting in August 1994, but was dismissed by the community in 2001 and was evicted through a court order at the end of 2002.
He was however re-employed by the community during 2016, but was again dismissed in February 2018. He suddenly returned on June 19 and unlawfully occupied the lodge together with his sons and ran the business as his business. According to an affidavit lodged by Katondoihe Tjivinda, purported to be the Vice-chairperson of the committee, Peter claimed that the area where the lodge is situated is property and he will continue to occupy the lodge and run it as his private business.
The committee disputed the claim and pointed out that they applied to the Minister of Lands for the grant of a Permission to Occupy right (PTO) covering 12 hectares including the areas where the campsite and lodge is located. Peter was indicated on the certificate as ‘manager’ when the PTO was granted to the community.
The affidavit by Tjivinda also stated about 30 guests have been booked into the lodge since June 17 and the income generated from these bookings were unlawfully appropriated by Peter which puts the operating assets of the lodge at risk.
“In addition, there was also the risk to the reputation of the business, caused by the unlawful occupation of the lodge by Peter as the guests would be confused about the sudden change in management,” the affidavit further stated.
They also stated they were not served with a court order in favour of the Uaraavi’s against the community evicting them from the lodge and that the Uaraavi’s simply took the law into their own hands and unlawfully despoiled them of their peaceful and lawful possession of the lodge.
The Uaraavis on the other hand denied that the lodge forms part of the conservancy and that the lodge is not in the conservancy area. They further argued the committee was not in factual or legal occupation at the time they took occupation of the lodge.
They said the lodge has been a subject of dispute for many years and that after protracted negotiations over the years, he was invited by the committee to return and manage the lodge after the committee realised the lodge was developed and built by Peter more than two decades ago.
He further stated the campsite and lodge are located on separate pieces of land demarcated by separate PTO’s, as well as that he applied for a PTO for the lodge which is pending.
Judge Angula said the only issue to determine in the case is whether the committee was in the lawful possession of the lodge and that the Uaraavi’s unlawfully despoiled them of such possession and he found as such.
The Uaraavi’s were represented by Sisa Namandje and the committee by Norman Tjombe.