A decision by government to postpone the long-anticipated second national land conference has left the opposition Swanu party in dismay, with party leaders calling it “unpatriotic and retrogressive”.
The party expressed its disappointment with the decision after Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma recently announced in the National Assembly that the conference had been postponed indefinitely, as there is apparently no money to convene the meeting.
The first land conference was held in 1991.
Swanu president Usutuaije Maamberua said it is irresponsible to think that Namibians are “so foolish” as to believe that government cannot afford about N$20 million to host the event.
“How can Namibia not afford to host such an important conference and at the same time the president can afford to spend a month in the USA with a huge delegation. We are yet to be told how much that cost the taxpayers,” Maamberua fumed.
“In the same vein… a N$1 billion Namibia-DRC Trade Park is underway. The exorbitant wastages and high perks of the elites cannot convince anybody that government cannot afford N$20 million,” he maintained.
According to Maamberua, the “flimsy excuses” given by government as reasons to postpone the conference “smack of underlying tribalism”. This, he believes, may be due to the fact that the land question mostly affects dispossessed minority ethnic groups.
He stressed that the indefinite postponement of the conference is a further indication that government is not serious about the land question.
Government, Maamberua said, is apparently not cognizant of the fact that the land question is intimately linked to the Ovaherero/Nama Genocide. He is convinced that government’s apparent disinterest in the genocide issue is demonstrated by what he calls a “lackluster attitude”.
“Both these issues are regarded by the ruling majority as not being of any effect and consequence to them, he said, adding that “Swanu thus warns government that an indifferent attitude by the ruling majority to the land question and genocide can only fuel racial, ethnic and class tensions in the country.”
“If government continues on this unpatriotic trajectory, peace and tranquility shall remain under threat and the Harambee Project shall be derailed,” he said.
“The postponement of the land conference comes in the wake of the president’s statement in the USA indicating his U-turn on [land] expropriation and also stating that Damaras, San, Hereros and Nama do not know their ancestral land.
“It is, therefore, clear to us that government has been put under pressure by internal capital and foreign capital to abandon the land solution in favour of some forces unknown to us,” he alleged.
Maamberua concluded by saying Swanu had hoped the planned conference would address the ancestral land issue, restitution, returnees from the diaspora and freehold, or leasehold agreements, as well as access to sacred places. Others issues would include a historical reckoning with land theft and resettling the dispossessed.