Land Reform Debate Erupts in Heated ‘Mouthicuffs’

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon was the battleground for a heated debate on land reform. Resuming the debate on the progress of the land reform programme since its inception, Republican Party President, Henk Mudge, came under heavy criticism from members of the ruling party as well as other opposition MPs. A statement by Mudge that the land issue only became a problem after independence sparked a strong reaction from Members of Parliament who demanded that he withdraw the statement. Prime Minister Nahas Angula was the first to take on the Republican Party member and said it was absolutely not true that land only became an issue after independence. “The genocide issue which we were debating all along is about land, and I think honourable Mudge is violating the history by that statement.” An attempt by Mudge to explain what he meant by the statement only aggravated the situation, and deputy minister of Local Government and Housing, Kazenambo Kazenambo, was the next to take the floor. A fuming Kazenambo said his grandparents had sacrificed their lives fighting for the land, and it was insulting for Mudge to make such a claim. “He is insulting people’s intelligence, and I think it is time that we must respect each other and tell the truth.” Kazenambo demanded the Republican Party MP to withdraw the statement unconditionally. The Speaker of the House Theo-Ben Gurirab, who had a busy afternoon, requested Mudge to withdraw the statement. Continuing with his speech, Mudge noted that little progress had been made in the process of land reform because resettled farmers have inadequate training and are not very productive. He said the agricultural sector is a very important sector of the Namibian economy and should not be destabilized. He warned that land reform should be economically driven and not politicized. “The recent events in Zimbabwe are a clear example of what can happen if the land reform is politically driven.” He said the new farmers should learn from the experiences of the commercial farmers to maximize productivity on agricultural land. At this point, Kazenambo interjected again and said Africans cannot be treated as if they cannot read and write. “We know what economies are, and what you are preaching now is what you did before to our ancestors.” The deputy minister said Namibians do not need to be trained to acquire their own land. DTA of Namibia President Katuutire Kaura also joined the debate, saying it was not only commercial farmers who know about farming, but communal farmers are very good farmers as well. “After droughts, commercial farmers go to communal farmers to buy livestock, so who are the better farmers?” Contributing to the debate, the deputy minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Petrus Iilonga, who constantly referred to Henk as Dirk, said Mudge’s ancestors took a political will to push the blacks out of the land. Iilonga’s sentiments were shared by Angula, who said that after 1945 the Afrikaner Authority gave free land to Dorsland trekkers and poor whites from Kakamas were brought to Namibia and given land. Speaking in Afrikaans, Angula said: “Arm boere van die Karoo is grond vry gegee.” (“Poor white farmers from the Karoo were given free land”). Monitor Action Group Member of Parliament, Jurie Viljeon, said his grandparents were the Dorsland trekkers and they never received land free from South African but instead paid for it. “I have evidence that the Dorsland trekkers have paid for the land, and Angula must withdraw the statement.” Providing some humour to the debate, the Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, John Mutorwa, asked Mudge if he wouldn’t consider Carola Engelbrecht replacing him in Parliament. “Since you are a very busy man and a fulltime architect, why don’t you let your number two on the parliamentary list, Engelbrecht, replace you in Parliament?” Engelbrecht, who was the Secretary-General of the RP, resigned from the party last year. The debate resumed yesterday afternoon.