INTERESTING opinions were voiced during the current session of Parliament on the subject of resettlement. This is not to say similar views have not been aired in the past regarding this issue. Somehow communities who have time and again been expressing their voices seem of little consequence to take seriously or their views do not matter.
Members of Parliament are now at last taking on board these views. One hopes that now that members of the August House are voicing the issue, the Ministry and the powers that be will take them seriously. They are a reflection of the plight of the people. Neither does one hope that now that they are being aired by MPs, those airing them would still be presumed an inconsequential section of the society. As muted as those who have been airing the issue may have been, the issue is no mute or less important as some may think.
Members of Parliament who expressed their views during the 2008/9 budget debate, especially as it related to the vote of the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, represent a section of the Namibian community. And therein lies their bona fides. The chorus seemed to be that somehow the ministry does not have its priorities right when it comes to the resettlement of people.
One after another they seemed to opine that the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement seems geared towards ameliorating the dearth of living space.
Even when attempting this, the ministry seems twisted in its priorities in that whenever land for resettlement is acquired, people in the locality of the acquired land who are themselves equally in need of living space, if not productive land, are often overlooked or side-stepped.
There is no denying for a moment that the foremost guiding principle in the resettlement of people should be need. Not only need for living space but equally if not most importantly need for productive land.
Thus, while due regard should be given to those who at any given time may be without living space, we should also at the same time duly consider their capacity to make use of this land productively. But the essence of the views that seem to be coming from the August House was that we cannot look further than the backyard of the acquired land in resettling people. As they say charity begins at home. All that this means is that one cannot help a distant neighbour while the next-door neighbour is equally in need, if not more. One has full understanding for the Government’s policy that anyone can live in any region, constituency, area or locality. This is as much as one also has the right to be protected from uprooting.
By some historical incident, design or destiny, there are areas of sentimental value to sections of our population, notwithstanding how they have come to be attached to these areas historically. Thus, the Government needs to be sensitive to same in its resettlement endeavours. Simply put, there is no way that there cannot be a people equally in need of resettlement in any area where the Government has bought land for resettlement. Thus the ideal thing is to start with these people, unless of course the Government is satisfied that people in other areas are urgently more in need of resettlement there.
Providing people with a piece of land to live on is not all there is to resettlement. One also needs to look at the socio-economic and cultural backgrounds of the people in need of resettlement. Such considerations may include how long any people have been living in any area and what their attachments are to the particular area, specifically to the land in question, the people, animals and what-have-you. Any resettlement policy that ignores these considerations and bases its action purely on the need for a living space, is not only inhuman but may prove counterproductive in the long run.
People must also have peace of mind, which can be an important motivator in the productive utilisation of the land they have been resettled on. Certainly land per se cannot be the sole motivator but also attachment to many other things alluded to already. This is how I am reading the views of the MPs.
Despite, now and then we have been seeing people less deserving of resettlement being resettled at the expense of more deserving people. To illustrate this we have people in a position to acquire a piece of land by own initiative in one way or the other, competing for scarce land for resettlement with people not equally well-endowed economically or not well-positioned because of the wretched nature of their existence.
I can assure you that if the resettlement process was as transparent as it should be, you would have seen for yourself that there are fellow countrywomen and men who have jumped the queue to acquire land at the exclusion and expense of more deserving and needy people.
The views from Parliament as voices in the wilderness as they may sound, and isolated as they may seem, coming from parliamentarians with sentimental value to land historically, come nevertheless at an opportune time when the ministry of lands is embarking on an audit of the resettlement programme.
Such an audit must be wide to include an audit of the resettlement policies and approaches that hitherto seem to be erratic, whether by oversight or design.