New government deserves chance on land

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TENSION over land reached new heights yesterday when Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma expressed himself on the ultimatum served on government by proponents of the Affirmative Repositioning movement.

Nujoma condemned the planned illegal occupation of land by land activists and their supporters if they do not get favourable answers to recent mass land applications by July 31.

President Hage Geingob has been lyrical on the issue of land in recent weeks and the principle of fairness would dictate that the President, just like his predecessors, deserves time to deal with the matter.

By July 31, Geingob would have been in office for a mere four months. When the President announced his Cabinet and the revised structures of government recently, he brought to the fore a promising clue on how he intends to deal with the land matter.

To this effect, Geingob has created the Ministry of Land Reform. Previously, this ministry dealt with broader issues of land and resettlement, but it now looks like land reform will be its core preoccupation.

With all these signs of hope and determination on the President’s part, we had hoped that Affirmative Repositioning would employ a wait-and-see approach by shelving its July 31 deadline and giving the new government a fair chance to deal with this issue.

To all intents and purposes, the Ministry of Land Reform was born out of political willingness, on the part of the new government, to wage a radical war on genuine land reform in the country.

The President has recently conceded that the willing-seller, willing-buyer approach has failed, and he hinted at pursuing the constitutional provision of expropriating land, especially land which belongs to absentee landlords.

There is therefore no doubt about Geingob’s determination to help Namibians access land in a more equitable and affordable manner.

What is pleasing is that both government and Affirmative Repositioning agree on one thing: that a land crisis does indeed exist in the country.

The two parties seem to only disagree on the approach and pace at which this known crisis is being resolved.
Realistically, the new government cannot resolve the land issue in four months. But notable strides can surely be made within that timeframe to convince land-hungry Namibians that indeed there is political will to address this issue.

To expect Geingob to resolve the land issue within four months of his presidency is unrealistic, and inconsiderate. It is an expectation beyond the limits of human capabilities.

True, government must admit that it could have done better in solving land problems for the past 25 years since independence. In fact, there is nothing much to write home about insofar as the issue of urban land is concerned.

But it is our conviction too that each one of the three successive governments must be judged on its own merits. Geingob’s government will have little, if any, merits by July 31 because there would not have been enough time to accumulate any within that timeframe.

The land issue must be resolved, there should not be any questions on that. Namibians – including the first three presidents of our country – fought for land and their bravery will go to waste if the results of their sweat are invisible.
The current generation of leaders must – when in the autumn of their lives – look back with pride at how they fought for land and how they successfully ensured that Namibians indeed own land now.

For that to be achieved, government has to do what is necessary to avail land to the landless masses. But changing relevant laws, drafting modes of availing land to those who need it and finding money to fund the entire exercise will not be completed before July this year. It simply is not doable.

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