Keetmanshoop – Concerned residents of the //Karas Region are calling for a decentralised resettlement programme whereby each region resettles its own residents.
They say this process will allow for transparency and fairness and ensure that those groups who lost land during the colonial period would get it back.
President Hage Geingob said late last year that the Namibian Constitution allows citizens to live wherever they want in their country of birth. He warned against creating new Bantustans, where the country’s ethnic groups live in separation.
Concerned residents indicated that the current programme is generally perceived as corrupt, discriminatory and biased, benefitting only the powerful and elites at the expense of landless poor indigenous groups that lost land to the colonisers.
In a petition addressed to // Karas Governor Lucian Basson and President Geingob, they claim that the resettlement programme in its current state is biased as it does not consider the different impacts colonialism had on indigenous communities as far as land is concerned.
Reading the petition at the closed gates of the governor’s office on Friday, the group’s spokesperson Ferdinand Jacobs indicated that the indigenous groups in the colonial policing zone were mostly affected by colonial land dispossession and lost almost all their land and livestock during colonial times, whereas groups in the northern part of Namibia suffered relatively less land dispossession, and it’s thus unfair that government is resettling people regardless of whether they lost land or not.
He further stated that although it was agreed at independence that no ancestral land claims would be entertained, the government has failed to honour the spirit of compromise, as residents had trusted that government would prioritise resettling first those that had lost land, but this trust, he added, has been betrayed since government is resettling people who didn’t lose land on a massive scale and overlooking those who have lost land.
“Government is resettling people who were never unsettled at the expense of those of us who lost land through centuries of war and genocide – we don’t know how government understands the word resettlement,” he said.
The residents further claim that the current resettlement programme has fuelled poverty in the region, noting that many are poor because they don’t have land, which is the means of production.
They further claim that many in the region feel systematically excluded from land allocations, which they say raises the question of whether the marginalisation of the southern regions is institutionalised, and thus decentralising the programme is the only way the right people will get land.
“The resettlement programme is not pro-poor and doesn’t address poverty and therefore the government should decentralise the resettlement programme and let each region resettle its residents,” said Jacobs.
The petition also called on the land bill to be set aside, citing lack of input from the public, with the group accusing lands minister Utoni Nujoma of wanting to push the bill through without sufficient input from relevant stakeholders, further saying there can be no land bill tabled without the second land conference first.
One of the protesters Zak Dirkse claimed that the government is not serious with land redistribution, adding that this was evident when the line ministry chose festive dates for the input on the land bill, “which indicates it wants little input from the public”.
“They clearly want to bulldoze this bill through without the input of the people,” he charged.