The working group on land reform of the Namibian Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (Nangof) wants the government to postpone the land reform conference scheduled for November so that it can be better organised.
Nangof’s spirited stand has the blessing of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN).
“The issue of land is very important for ELCRN and through our desk for social development we want to be part and parcel of the issue. We want to be role players in the decision-making process. I think we should not wait for a date to be announced. November is next door, it is very close. For us wanting [to be part of] something that will make an impact on this very sensitive issue, we should come up with pushing for a postponement so that the conference can be well organised,” explained the deputy bishop of ELCRN, Paul Kisting.
Uhuru Dempers, convener of the working group, said Nangof would hold a series of local and regional consultations over the next two months, which would culminate in the civil society conference on land reform, as a precursor to the envisaged second national land conference.
“The local and regional consultations will prioritise the eight regions mostly affected by land dispossession by German and South African colonial governments,” stated Dempers.
Although all parts of the country would be covered, Dempers said the regions most affected include Hardap, //Karas, Omaheke, Khomas, Otjozondjupa, Erongo, Kunene and Oshikoto.
He said that as civil society organisations are pleased that government through the Harambee Prosperity Plan is envisaging to convene the second national land conference in November 2016, they would like to express their concerns around the organisation of the conference.
“With less than two months remaining we are concerned that no date, details or venue have been announced by the Ministry of Land Reform. Although no agenda has been announced we are informed that the main agenda item will be a review of the 24 resolutions taken at the first national land reform conference. Our concern is whether independent researchers, land experts and academics have been commissioned to undertake this review or whether the Ministry of Land Reform itself will evaluate [issues],” he said.
He noted that since the land question is a matter of national concern and is indeed a sensitive issue, Nangof is concerned that the ministry is single-handedly organising the second national land conference.
“We are proposing that an inter-sectorial organising committee be set up, composed of the line ministries and civil society organisations, including organisations of landless people, churches, farmers’ unions, trade unions and NGOs working on land issues, and the private sector,” he said.
He said a proposed organising committee should agree on the agenda, participation, resource persons and other important content issues for the conference.
“We are also concerned about who will be invited to the second land conference. Our view is that landless people, farmers’ organisations, resettlement programme beneficiaries and other important stakeholders must be the majority participants at the conference.”
Nangof also wants government to put aside all ongoing policy and legislative reviews until the conference has expressed itself on the land question.
Dempers said the upcoming consultations would focus on issues of slow pace of land reform and why the target for land acquisition was reviewed by the Ministry of Land Reform in 2014.
Other issues to be addressed would be the reopening of the ancestral land claims debate, and inclusion of legal land expropriation as part of the genocide negotiations currently underway between the Namibian and German governments and affected communities.
High on the consultation list are the waivers given to commercial farmers, the support to resettlement farmers and the development of communal farmers.
Dempers said that after the consultations, a national civil society conference on land reform would be held after completion of all local and regional consultations. “The key issues identified in each region during the consultations will be tabled at a conference and the working group will identify key themes emerging from all local and regional consultations.”