WINDHOEK-- The Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) says the government should have done its utmost to ensure that no one withdraws from the 2nd National Land Conference currently underway in Windhoek.

CCN Spokesperson Reverend Andre September said the council was saddened by the withdrawal of key voices from the conference. Several opposition parties, pressure groups, civil society organizations and faith-based organization last week withdrew, labelling the conference a "political gimmick that is predetermined".

Some traditional authority leaders, who were expected to make presentations at the five-day conference which opened Monday, also boycotted the event for similar reasons.

Delivering a statement at the conference, Rev September said it was not correct for public representatives and office-bearers to continuously assert that people have signed over their will to control their lives and make decisions on their behalf without consulting them.

"Through a ballot, people express confidence in a political party and leaders to put the interest of the country and all its people first and as a matter of course in governance, consult them on matters that affect and concern them," he said.

He described the persistent inequalities in Namibian society and economy as untenable, indefensible and unsustainable, adding that challenges had to be tackled with seriousness and an open mind for creative solutions by putting the interest of the country and its people first.

He said the land question could not only be a government affair and challenges associated with land reform could not be solved by government alone. He called on the conference to find ways to make land reform policies more effective to build a transformed society, or adopt new radical measures to achieve the desired outcome that will help create a fair and equitable society.

The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), meanwhile, said it believes that access to and ownership of land will only become meaningful if it constitutes a foundation for wealth creation and economic prosperity.

Former NCCI president and current director Dr Leake Hangala, in a statement made at conference here on Monday, said access to and ownership of land is important as these are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end.

Hangala also highlighted the fact that not everyone is interested in farming because of the harsh weather conditions experienced in Namibia, among other factors, noting that there should also be a thorough discussion on making land available for factories or medical centres.

"This conference should therefore also come up with programmes and agendas that will make land to be used as a means for wealth creation for the State, communities and individuals," he said, adding that this can only be achieved through the creation of collateral value of land, specifically in communal areas.