By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Improved government planning, better access and communication, capacity building, strengthening of the role of traditional authorities and support for the implementation of the Communal Land Reform Act among the San people are some of the recommendations made in a report by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC). The report titled, “Our Land They Took: San land rights under threat in Namibia”, was on Friday officially launched by the LAC in the capital. “It is really sad and a shame that we still have people living in abject poverty like the San 17 years after independence. Though we appreciate efforts by the deputy Prime Minister to assist the San people, there is a need for a much stronger commitment from the Namibian government to assist the San people. Her Cabinet colleagues also need to be more committed in helping the San people,” urged LAC board member Clement Daniels in a short welcoming address. The Deputy Prime Minister, dr Libertina Amathila, welcomed the report on behalf of the government in a speech that was read on her behalf by Gerson Kamatuka from the Office of the Prime Minister. “Currently, our people are facing poverty and are landless. Our history has been one of brutality and exploitation where people were chased away from their land and their land has been occupied since then. However, the land issue is still going to haunt us for many years to come – after all the liberation struggle was about land,” Amathila said. She claimed that currently not everyone is happy with the government’s land re-distribution process as it is considered too costly and slow. “Nevertheless, the process is underway and my hope is that one day we shall overcome. The land question, complex as it is, will never be solved in the short term, but is rather a long-term process. I am happy to see that we as a people are freely debating, arguing and sharing ideas about the land question,” she said, encouraging academics, historians, decision-makers and the public to read the report. “Yes, it is true that on the whole, San people live a life of poverty and dislocation. Change is clearly needed in a number of areas. All Namibians should be informed about the life of the San people and the need to bring them to acceptable levels of development. I imply that the San live like most of us,” Amathila said. She intimated that the government alone will not be able to achieve the objective to make the San communities become self-sustaining without the continued technical support from development partners. “Hopefully lessons learned from this report can be used by scholars, professionals, community leaders and NGOs, who are concerned that the land policy ultimately serves the marginalized minority and secures their sustenance,” the deputy PM concluded. Victoria Haraseb of WIMSA expressed skepticism over poverty reduction among the San people, while the land is being taken away from them. “The land needs to be taken back to the San for them to be able to live on it and practice their traditional lifestyle. At the same time government resources need to be provided to these resettled people to make a living on the land,” Haraseb suggested, thanking the LAC for publishing the report that was financed by various foreign donors, among them the Finnish Embassy in Windhoek.
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