Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law

(1999) JLP 44: 15-31





Manfred O. Hinz




Modern hunting and nature conservation laws were developed in Namibia during the colonial period in a form foreign to indigenous communities. As a result these regulations generally lacked legitimacy in the eyes of the indigenous population. Hence a situation has arisen in which activity which is known to be legally classed as poaching is nevertheless seen as a normal practice. The German colonial government and the subsequent South African administration ignored the customary systems of hunting regulation. They required fees to be paid for hunting licences, thereby excluding indigenous people. They recognised land ownership as carrying the right to hunt, but only in respect of fenced-off farms, not indigenous communal land. Traditional rituals which accompanied hunting were based on notions of man's relationship to nature, and were very different from those represented by the hunting rituals of European origin. Since the early 1970s different policies have been applied to hunting and nature conservation. After a brief period of decentralisation of hunting control a centralised system was reintroduced. An exemption for one group, which has been permitted to hunt, but only in their traditional way, has limited tradition to a fixed practice in hunting, failing to recognize that traditional practices have constantly developed. In 1996 the law endorsed the notion of conservancies, or communal lands whose residents were to be granted the right of sustainable management and utilisation of game, exercised through representative committees. Traditional authorities have welcomed the new policy, but there remains an issue as to the relationship between them and the conservancy committees.