The Lost Space Ship – the Land Is Gone Forever [analysis]

CORRUPTION and confusion are perhaps two aspects that best define the land ‘reform’ process in Namibia today.

After a good 25 years since we got our independence, we are totally directionless with regards to addressing the land question. Our first step was taken in June 1991 when the National Land Conference was held to discuss what now has become a controversial issue. At that conference there were a number of commissions and omissions.

The conference, which was well-attended, reached a measure of consensus on the issue of land reformdistribution. The main resolution, which is now haunting us, was that any re-distribution would be on a compensatory ‘willing sellerwilling buyer’ basis.

The second one was that there would be no recognition of ancestral land claims (no restitution). This rather weird recommendation was premised on two conflicting assumptions. No one lost land or we all lost land and secondly, no one will remember where our ancestors used to live.

The conference also touched on issues such as absentee landlords, farm sizes and numbers, and land tenure regime. It also touched on foreign ownership of land in the country.

Now read this headline in New Era newspaper of February 2015, “Cabinet studies foreign land ownership in Namibia”.

The article says: “Cabinet is hard at work to complete a report in which it will outline the way forward regarding the much awaited legislation on foreigners owning land in Namibia”.

After a good 24 years since the 1991 conference, there is still no policy on this very sensitive issue. This is now after the fact and whatever is decided on foreign ownership is going to be a hot potato.

Now while they are busy debating on what to do take this headline in last year’s The Namibian newspaper: “Russian land baron to invest N$600m.” This ‘investment’ is earmarked for the Marula Game Ranch and would involve buying a number of farms for this purpose. And it is said that N$300m had been invested in phase one already. But what was conspicuously missing from the 1991 conference was the issue of urban land. This was in my view, a very unfortunate omission.

And as it stands now, no one has a solution to the urban land issue because people are pulling in different directions – especially the various confused municipalities and the land-hungry activists such as the Affirmative Repositioning movement.

We should also not forget the ministry of land reform has had four different ministers – Hifikepunye Pohamba, Jerry Ekandjo, Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana, Alpheus !Naruseb and now has a fifth one, Utoni Nujoma. This is in addition to their deputies and PSes. They all did not seem to have a solution to the land question.

Recently, the Henties Bay municipality gave a number of plots to the youth under the Affirmative Repositioning banner. After this good news for the youth, Swapo stepped in to stop the move. A screaming headline in The Namibian: “Follow Swapo land policy.”

Does Swapo now have its own land policy different from that of the country? If they do, then they must inform the nation of it because Swapo is, after-all, the ruling party. When celebrities buy prime land in cities for a song or given it free like Sam Nujoma who was given free prime land in Walvis Bay, Windhoek and elsewhere, no one dares raise a finger.

The same Nujoma who got free land is now against the youth getting land by calling them all sorts of names like they are disrespectful, provocative, disturbing and inciting violence in order to destabilise the country.

Now tell me what the difference between the so-called ‘land grabbers’ and those who fence off land in the communal areas – totally against the Communal Land Act is? And some of those who have been fencing off land in communal land include high ranking government officials – the Tjekero Tweyas, the Usko Nghaamwas, and the Hifikepunye Pohambas of this world, among others.

Nujoma was the President of this country for 15 years and did nothing to resolve the land question, so he cannot come back and still talk about the land issue. And then comes in Pohamba. In an article that appeared in New Era when he was still the President, he is quoted as saying: “Since people have no land they have no means of production (I would add and no means of building their own houses). Then he goes on to say: “We need to amend the Constitution otherwise we will face a revolution, and if that happens land will be taken over by the revolutionaries.”

All these are coming from someone who was a former lands minister himself.

Let us be realistic on the land question. We have failed dismally either because those who were or are supposed to drive the process have no understanding of the complexity of the land question and how to reformsolve it. Or I’m inclined to believe that all the talk of ‘we fought for the land” is just palpable lies to serve a very few.

We were fighting a repressive political order that is colonialism and apartheid but clearly not the economic system on which apartheid rested, including the very land tenure regime we are so religiously upholding.

Source : The Namibian