Government and traditional authority leaders yesterday asked for patience from landless Namibians, saying government is working around the clock to address their plight.
One of the latest measures introduced is a system that will confirm whether applicants already own land before being considered for approval.
The Affirmative Repositioning movement is mobilising for mass land occupations on 31 July, a situation that prompted an urgent meeting between Vice-President Nickey Iyambo and a delegation from the Council of Traditional Leaders at State House yesterday.
Following the meeting, Minister of Rural and Urban Development, Sophia Shaningwa acknowledged that the concerns raised by people, who cannot afford their own homes, are genuine.
She said her ministry recently installed a new database system that synchronises all land applications in all towns across the country.
“From now on it is one plot per person, our new system will be able to monitor whether an applicant has land in another town already or not,” she said.
Shaningwa may have to wait for two weeks though to find out if thousands of people, who plan to forcefully occupy land across the country on July 31, have heeded her call for patience.
“We know the concerns of the landless people are genuine, but give us more time as we address the land issue,” she said.
The situation has become so intense that even traditional leaders decided to come out publicly to plead with those who are fed up with the skyrocketing price of erven to exercise patience and not to go ahead with their plan to forcefully occupy land.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting at State House, Shaningwa said despite government’s concerted efforts to address the land problem, more still needs to be done.
“The land concerns are genuine, it has always been, hence government has been working on it since the time of Dr. Sam Nujoma and Dr. Hifikepunye Pohamba,” Shaningwa said.
The minister, however, made it clear that nobody is entitled to free land: “Land will not be free, although those who are advocating that people should grab land are giving the impression that land must be given for free. By law we all have the responsibility to buy land, but from our side – as government – we must ensure that the land is affordable,” she said.
“Our people cannot be allowed to grab unserviced land and then end up using plastic bags at night to relieve themselves when nature calls and then throw these bags into the riverbeds in the morning,” she pointed out.
Chief Seth Kootjie from the Topnaar Traditional Authority advised those who planning to illegally grab land on July 31 not to go ahead with their plan. “They are our children and we are advising them to work with the government.
That is the only way we can solve the problem, by engaging our government,” Kootjie said.
AR keep their guard
Meanwhile, well-informed sources said the ruling Swapo Party and Affirmative Repositioning (AR) group are yet to start formal discussions, despite having met on Monday in Windhoek.
New Era established that the three founders of the AR group, Job Amupanda, Dimbulukeni Nauyoma and George Kambala, who were subsequently suspended from the Swapo Party Youth League, refused to engage with Swapo’s Political Bureau committee unless they are given assurance that their engagement with the ruling party will not be held against them at the planned disciplinary hearing of the trio.
The ruling party suspended the three last November over their campaign to grab urban land illegally.
The AR group refused to comment on the matter earlier this week when contacted for comment, but confirmed that the meeting with the representatives of the ruling party had taken place.
Efforts to get hold of the committee’s chairperson, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana proved futile as her phone went unanswered and a text message left on her phone on Wednesday yielded no response.
Sources told this reporter that the AR trio wants assurances in writing that they will not be held liable in future, if they engage with a Swapo-appointed committee, given that they are banned from participating in party activities.
“It just makes sense that if they [Swapo] want the three guys to engage them, they must either lift the suspension or give them assurance that it will not count against them,” said the source.
Amupanda served as Swapo Party Youth League central committee member and spokesperson, while his counterparts Nauyoma and Kambala held positions of SPYL district leader and SPYL branch leader, respectively, prior to their suspension.