By Kelvin Chiringa
A local businessman Ripanga Meroro, is planning to sue government for approving the demolition of his N$6 million fuelling station while it was still under construction in Otjinene, following a land dispute.
Allegations are that the demolition was as a result of the dispute between the Otjinene Village Council and the Maharero Traditional Authority, both of which claimed ownership of the land. Both entities have also availed it to two potential investors. Meroro in an interview disclosed that the Maharero authority gave the land to a company owned by the Mutjimba brothers (Kavango Investments CC) in which some of the traditional authorities had interests.
In spite of that, Meroro said he secured the land and acquired a N$3 million Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) loan and proceeded to erect the now demolished fuel station.
At the time of applying for the land the Otjinene Village Council was not in existence and he had to deal with the regional councilor at first.
“When the village council came into place, there was an acting CEO and we did our application,” he said.
Otjinene CEO distances himself
Otjinene Chief Executive Officer, Nathaniel Karuaihe has however distanced himself from the entire fracas.
“I don’t have any idea whether the land belongs to Mutjimba, it’s not under my jurisdiction because they were dealing with the Maharero Traditional Authority. So it is not for me to say whether they got another land or whatever (sic). “What I can allude to is if they can reapply within the jurisdiction of the village council then it is something else, but currently now the structure has been demolished. The case now between him (Meroro) and the traditional authority,” said the CEO. The Maharero Traditional Authority’s spokesperson, Dave Ndjavera has told The Patriot that the issue of the land dispute is now water under the bridge.
He said a 18th December court order was put in place which necessitated the taking over of the land from Meroro.
“It is not our land, we do not own that land anymore.
The Omaheke Communal Land Board acting on behalf of the ministry of land reform already allocated that land to the Kavango Investment CC in 2016 June,” said Ndjavera. He also refuted allegations that some officials from the traditional authority had shares in this company.
“All traditional councilors and members, none of them are part of that company under Daniel Mutjimba,” he said.
The Patriot were unable to reach company officials for a comment until the time of going to print.
A justice ministry letter to the Maharero regarded Meroro as having illegally occupied the land which he argued was under the jurisdiction of the Otjinene village council.
Meroro has disclosed to this publication that he has now put the matter in the hands of his lawyers and is planning to sue the lands ministry, the communal land board as well as the Maharero traditional authority in a bid to have “his land” back.
He also alleged that ever since the rival company demolished his building and took possession of the land, no significant progress had been made.
“I took this up with my lawyers to say now that things are looking like this, what is the next step. They have been busy with it. They wrote to the village council. Now they are busy contacting the communal land board to find out if the land belongs to the traditional authority or the village council.” I know that there was a conflict of interest, (given that) some members of the (Maharero) traditional authority got shares in the company that was to invest there.
The place was strategically located and this is why the other investor felt that no, please make sure that you get the land for us and we will have you as shareholders in the company.”
“That is what they did. Normally, when you’re applying for a piece of land you need to advertise it in the area. They needed to do that in Otjinene but because they knew that there would be an objection, they advertised it to the ministry of lands in Gobabis knowing that nobody would see it within the seven days required by law to object,” said the business man.
He said he lost the land while in the process of trying to sound alarm on the alleged irregularity.
Under the Communal Land Act, said Meroro, when one applies for a lease-hold over a piece of land and there is dispute over it, it would be a discrepancy to grant the same property.
“We were supposed to have at least resolved the problem and after that then they could go ahead with the lease hold. But the guys for the communal land board, one of them was also working for the (Maharero) traditional authority and so they only made it look as if there was no problem.
So the case is still going on and we are fighting it tooth and nail. With lawyers it’s only that it takes time,” he said. He said government has refused to be embroiled in the mess on the grounds that “it was not party to the demolishing” of the new filling station structure.
He also claimed that he has suffered damages and is in the process of repaying back a DBN loan he never got to optimally benefit from.
He said the Mutjimba company has not done anything on the land because they need to apply to the village council. “Really I didn’t want a case with anybody, even the government. I just wanted to continue with my business.
I want my structure back in place even if they say we can negotiate out of court, I can do that, I do not have a problem, I am just an investor,” said Meroro.