Land meeting raises more questions than answers

It may not have been a full house by attendance but in terms of intensity and the issues raised, the meeting cannot be said and seen to have been a disappointment, at least in the eyes of the organisers as well as those attending it, who seemed to not only have responded in good numbers but also showed that the question of land is dear to their interests and hearts.

The meeting was called by one of the country's established farmers from the previously exploited and disadvantaged section of the Namibian population, Albert Tjihero. He called the meeting to allow, especially farmers from communal areas of the various regions of the country, to brainstorm on a common standpoint as both previously disadvantaged and emerging commercial-cum-communal farmers to the envisaged second national land conference slated for the end of September.

Tjihero was concerned by the fact that so far farmers, who should have a keen interest in the land issue as farming cannot happen without land, do not seem to have a common position in anticipation of the envisaged land conference. On the contrary, various meetings have been taking place on a partisan basis either on the basis of traditional community, political or farming interest; meaning there seems to be various positions on the land issue. That is why Tjihero saw the need for a common position.

Indeed one of the facilitators or the main speaker at the meeting, Dr Hose Riruako, noted the seeming indifference within the landless and land dispossessed communities with only a few days left before the envisaged Second National Land Conference. Not only this, but he also noted the disturbing silence among these communities, especially the Otjiherero-speaking community which he observed is only good with words but without commensurate deeds and cautioned it against its wait-and-see attitude lest the said conference catches them unprepared.

Among the burning questions from the floor was how the Namibian Government could be trusted with funds which reportedly have been promised by the German government for the acquisition of land for distribution to the descendants of the Ovaherero and Nama, who are descendants of the people who suffered from German colonialism, including genocide, and in the process endured land dispossession. A need was also identified for unity among the landless and dispossessed and for them to speak with one voice before the planned land conference. In this regard, the challenge was put to political parties such as DTA of Namibia, Swanu of Namibia and the National Unity

Democratic Organisation as to how, at least in the fight for land restitution, they could harness their collective powers and energies to ensure a common position on the vexed question of land and one voice.

Concern was also raised as to how the landless and land dispossessed were to be represented at the planned conference in view of the seeming fragmented positions on the question of land as represented by various splinter organisations. Another pertinent concern was how the land question, especially expropriation could be possible with the entrenched property rights within the Namibian Constitution.

Similarly, there was a feeling that the word resettlement needs to be given more clarity if not ideological and/or political meaningfulness in what it actually means especially the interchange and/or alternate use of the two words, settlement and resettlement, and their actuality. It also remains baffling how land reform can take place in the face of property laws.

Yet another contribution from the floor was that with only less than a month remaining before the Second National Land Conference, many issues still remain unclear regarding the said conference whether in terms of its agenda, its modus operandi and its agenda, and the delegates to the said conference. On the issue of the agenda, the question raised was who should define the agenda of the said conference? There was a seminal view that the Government should define such an agenda in consultation with the communities. There was also a strong view that the said conference was not being realised by itself but on the demand of the landless and land dispossessed. Thus, they should have strong input in the agenda of the conference, if not solely defining its agenda.

Even the chairmanship of the envisaged conference was suspect, with the general feeling that the government cannot be trusted with chairing such a conference in view of the fact that it has shown itself not to be non-partisan in that somehow it has positioned itself on the matter with its agenda being no more than merging the two acts related to communal and commercial land, except having already presumably swept the issue of ancestral land under the carpet all these years since the 1991 First National Land Conference.

Certainly, the time available could not have been enough for a massive issue that the land question is and has been to the landless and land dispossessed if not the land hungry who filled the Namibia English Primary School hall with the limited time begging more questions than answers and obviously another meeting.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia