The Ju/’hoansi Traditional Authority announced last week that they have engaged some lawyers to help them regain control over their lands in Namibia. A report in the New Era newspaper on Tuesday the 27th provided a brief catalog of the wrongs they have suffered from invaders who have occupied some of their lands. Government actions in behalf of the Ju/’hoansi have been ineffective, the authority alleged. The report was based on a press release from the Traditional Authority according to another news story.

A Herero family in Namibia
A Herero family in Namibia (Photo by Claire Dickson in Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Their concern is with the Herero herders who first invaded the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in 2009. While a variety of actions have been taken, as numerous previous news stories have chronicled, the situation has still not been resolved. So the Ju/’hoansi chief decided to obtain legal help.

The Ju/’hoansi leaders maintain that despite their attempts to engage with the invaders, followed by their appeals for help from the administrators of government agencies, their efforts to resolve the matter and remove the invaders from their lands have all failed. They claim that “there has been a real lackluster reaction” from persons in positions of authority. That failure of responsibly in following Namibian law has had a serious impact on the people living in the marginalized Ju/’hoan communities, the article maintained.

The article named the agencies that have failed them. Despite the claim by the San people that they are effective custodians of the land and its resources, neither the Ministry of Environment and Tourism nor the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Forestry have supported their rights to their own lands. The article maintained that the Namibian legislation granting the Ju/’hoansi the right to utilize the resources of their traditional lands was in fact gazetted.

A couple kids at a traditional San village in northern Namiba
A couple kids at a traditional San village in northern Namiba (Photo by Alan Kuehner on his website, Creative Commons license)

The result, the authors argued, is that although they have the legal right to use the land—and indeed they maintained that they utilize natural resources sustainably—the invaders have flouted the laws and they unsustainably graze their cattle. The government agencies simply look away. Since every other recourse has failed, the San chief has engaged legal assistance to begin civil cases against six of the Herero farmers.

The article quoted the Ju/’hoansi chief as saying that, like their neighbors to the west, the !Kung in the Na#Jaqna Conservancy, “we have been tolerant and followed due process but it did not have the desired effect. We have been forced to take this civil action to ensure that our land and resources are returned to the community to whom they rightfully belong.” If this step does not obtain justice for the Ju/’hoansi, they plan to appeal to international courts.