Okombahe – The outspoken Deputy Minister of Land Reform, Benardus Swartbooi, has urged the Ovaherero, Nama and Damara communities to stand up and fight for the land from which their ancestors were brutally uprooted and resettled on less fertile land by colonial powers.
Apart from the mass evictions of their ancestors by the colonial powers, the Ovaherero, Nama and Damara communities endured mass exterminations at the hands of marauding German imperial forces.
The former //Karas regional governor said there is no community in the country that can claim to have lost more land than the three tribes mentioned.
Swartbooi made the appeal at the well-attended annual #Nu-Khoe (Damara) Annual Cultural Festival held at Okombahe in the Erongo Region this past weekend.
Those in attendance were, among others, Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Christina Hoebes, and Governor of the Erongo Region Cleophas Mutjavikua.
“Let’s not make the land question easy, let’s not think that it is enough for us to do what we do in land reform in a way that is not acceptable, where we put a Damara, Nama and Herero on equal footing as if there are other communities in this country that lost land in the way and manner the Damara, Nama and Herero did,” he said.
“Namas stand up, Hereros stand up, Damaras stand up, because if we don’t no one will be able to stand up for us; let’s get what is rightfully ours,” Swartbooi said in the Khoekhoegowab language.
Swartbooi conceded his remarks might appear controversial and might draw criticism, but reckoned truth is sometimes better served cold.
“Of course there will be those that will label this as tribalism, regionalism and so on but to hell with that. I am sorry for the language but truth is truth no matter who likes it or not,” he said emphatically.
He said the poverty currently terrorising the Nama, Ovaherero and Damara communities is in large part due to the land – a critical means of production – they were robbed of.
Poverty would be significantly reduced among these communities if they get their land back, the deputy lands minister said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Land Reform Utoni Nujoma earlier this year revealed that a total of 281 foreign nationals own 1.4 million hectares of farmland. Among those, 129 German nationals top the list, owning over 620 000 hectares.
The ministry earlier this year revealed that it has acquired 36 farms at a cost of more than N$290 million to resettle 57 families between April 2015 and February 2016.
Since independence in 1990 government has acquired 408 farms measuring 2.9 million hectares at a total cost of N$1.4 billion.
However, government still needs to acquire another 2.1 million hectares to realise its resettlement target by the year 2020.
The second national land conference that was aimed at bringing about more equal distribution of agricultural land after years under the apartheid regime of the South African government was postponed indefinitely.