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Rundu discards woodcarvers’ N$1.4m land claim

2024-05-14  Maria Sheya

Rundu discards woodcarvers’ N$1.4m land claim

The Rundu town council has thrown claims that it sidelined woodcarvers’ application to purchase a piece of land they have been operating on for over 30 years, out of the window.

The town’s CEO, Olavi Nathanael, claims that despite the woodcarvers operating on the land for several decades, they do not own the land, nor was there a resolution to sell the land to them.

He was responding to an urgent application, filed in March by the woodcarvers.

In their application, the woodcarvers, under Namibia Mbangura Woodcarvers Co-Operative, want the court to interdict the Rundu town council from forging ahead with the sale and transfer of the land to Jianwen Investments Namibia CC while the suit is in court.

In court documents filed last Tuesday, Nathanael said there is no documentary evidence establishing the basis for the woodcarvers' occupation of the land since 1991.

He said the issuance of the Permission to Occupy (PTO) that the woodcarvers rely on does not constitute an offer to sell the property to them.

“It is incomprehensible that the applicant (woodcarvers) alleges that the mere passage of time during which the applicant has had possession of the property would constitute consent from the second respondent (town council) to sell the property to it. 

Without a council resolution and any ministerial approval, no valid agreement of sale can be concluded, despite undisturbed possession and use of property over time,” said Nathanael.

There was no need for court proceedings, as the town is deliberating on donating an industrial erf to the woodcarvers, despite them owing the town council N$253258.95 in unpaid bills.

He further explained the activities of the woodcarvers as industrial. Thus, the town saw it as befitting to move the business to the industrial area.

“The error has been identified, and has already been deliberated by the management committee... However, the final decision is yet to be made during the upcoming meeting of the second respondent (town council),” he said.

This decision, has been communicated to the woodcarvers.

“The applicant is not the legal owner of the property. The only claim it may have against the first to the third respondent is an improvement or enrichment claim for any improvements that may have been done on the property,” said Nathanael.

In court documents seen by this publication, Sakaria Lumbala, chairperson of the Namibia Mbangura Woodcarvers Co-Operative, says they have been operating on the land since 1990.  He said they were given permission to occupy the land after the previous Portuguese owner, known as Lopez, relinquished his land rights and left Namibia.

Lopez also left behind a corrugated iron warehouse, three workshops for woodwork, and a sawmill on the property.

In 1991, with the assistance of then-Kavango regional commissioner John Mutorwa, who now holds the portfolio of Deputy Prime Minister, the woodcarvers formally took possession of the property.

In May 2010, the woodcarvers wrote to the town council, declaring their interest in buying the land for N$1.4 million. 

Lumbala said the town council then informed them of the steps to be taken in purchasing the land.

On 3 August 2017, the woodcarvers submitted their application, but they did not get a receipt from the town council.

Further, the property was advertised on 24 October 2023 for a public sale.

According to him, the town council never considered their 3 August 2017 application.

On 11 March 2024, the town council allegedly approved the sale of land to Jianwen Investments Namibia CC.

Judge Orben Sibeya postponed the matter to 30 July for a hearing.

2024-05-14  Maria Sheya

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