“Beggars on our own land …”

Tsumib v Government of the Republic of Namibia and its Implications for Ancestral Land Claims in Namibia

In 1954, the Hai||om people were evicted from Etosha by the South African-controlled South West African Administration. In 2015, the Hai||om filed the case of Tsumib v Government of the Republic of Namibia in the High Court of Namibia. Willem Odendaal’s “Beggars on our own land …” unravels the historical and contemporary socio-legal complexities that led to the Tsumib case. At the core of the case lies the legal question, how can the Hai||om people approach the Namibian Courts in order to claim compensation for the loss of their ancestral lands?

Odendaal goes into detail how the Tsumib case materialised under the post-independence Namibian constitutional discourse. He assesses the Namibian land reform programme and its oversight in dealing with historical land dispossessions. He inspects Hai||om “identity” and how it was used to strengthen their case. He concludes with an examination of Namibia’s outdated and restrictive legal framework, which ultimately denied the Hai||om people their constitutional right to be heard in the Namibian Court.

While the future of ancestral land claims in Namibia depends on the political will of the Namibian government, Odendaal argues that the Namibian courts have a duty to comply with the rights giving nature of the Namibian Constitution that lays the foundation for the Hai||om people’s ancestral claims.

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