Cabinet and parliament tackle land issue

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Windhoek

The country’s executive and legislature have joined forces in the form of committees to find measures to tackle the land issue with a view to avert a looming crisis.

This surfaced in the National Assembly as the latest step to tackle the land shortage, which is increasingly threatening peace in the country.

On Monday this week landless people – many of them youth – in Katima Mulilo stormed the municipal offices and physically abused town CEO Charles Nawa over the non-availability of residential land at the town.

Police had to use teargas to disperse the angry mob.

Subsequently, Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa described the Katima incident as “too serious” and urged State House to intervene.

The decision for the executive and legislature committees to team up over land was revealed after DTA leader McHenry Venaani tabled a motion on Urban Land Resettlement Scheme and Social Housing Alternatives.

While the DTA leader was motivating his motion, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila intervened to inform lawmakers

that Cabinet had already established a committee that is dealing with the very same issue that Venaani was addressing.

The motion was then referred to parliament’s committees on natural resources, human resources, and social and community development.

The committees will at a yet-to-be decided date meet with the cabinet committee tasked to handle land matters.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the cabinet committee which consists of Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Attorney General General Sacky Shangala and the ministers heading Urban and Rural Development (Sophia Shaningwa) and Land Reform (Utoni Nujoma) will come up with proposals ranging from repealing land-related laws, funding approaches and how to accelerate the provision of serviced land.

“This is an issue that government has been preoccupied with. We will at the appropriate time brief parliament as to what is in the pipeline on how government is dealing with the land issue, be it urban or commercial land. If we continue with this motion we might end up making the same proposals,” said the prime minister.

“The land issue is a crucial one therefore the committees (parliamentary and cabinet) should meet to see if there are any additional proposals so that we can unblock the system,” further stated the prime minister.

While motivating the motion, Venaani said the greatest problem is that the housing and property fraternity have treated housing as a speculative market where capitalist forces of demand and supply are allowed to control the market.

“In our Constitution housing or the right to own property is classified as a fundamental human right, which is the crux of the problem. We can only begin to fix this problem once we begin to look at housing in its proper constitutional perspective and government and all the relevant stakeholders accept the mandate that comes with that,” he said.

He also echoed what many government critics said in recent years – that the simple truth is there are (powerful) people with vested interests in ensuring the situation does not change. One does not need to bring up how many political office-bearers and other high ranking government officials have directly benefitted and accumulated their wealth from profits derived from the property market.

Venaani said there is a need to formulate policies and laws that ensure equitable access to housing so that first-time buyers and the homeless are given preference to those who already own homes or who buy residential erven to build flats and sublet them.

He also proposed the introduction of rental caps and adequate rental regulations and laws to protect tenants.

The partnership of the parliamentary and cabinet committees comes just over a month before a planned mass land occupation to be led by the Affirmative Repositioning movement.

The planned land occupation is slated for July 31, a day on which about 35 000 people who have submitted their applications for erven at various town councils and local authorities countrywide are planning to occupy vacant plots in towns across the country.

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