Land dispossessed want postponement of Land Bill

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Windhoek-The Land Bill must be put on hold until the second National Land Conference. This is the consensus of a community of interests in the land question, particularly in the Land Bill which lately has been a subject of debate, and the second National Land Conference slated for this September.

This view was expressed at a community meeting of Windhoek residents in the Khomasdal Community Hall on Monday which brought together predominantly a section of the Namibian citizenry that feels dispossessed of land because of German colonialism that alienated their ancestral land.

The community seemed particularly perturbed by the recent pronouncements of the Minister of Land Reform, Utoni Nujoma, who was quoted saying his ministry would not entertain ancestral land rights, which he likened to apartheid-era Bantustans.

The minister was also quoted in the media labelling those entertaining ancestral land rights as “unpatriotic”.

And this was all the more reason the meeting doubted whether any submissions on the Land Bill would have any impact. Not only this but also that minister Nujoma’s policy position on ancestral land may also be the position of the Namibian government and what use it may be to input the Land Bill before the land conference.

However, as hopeless as they felt about any attempt of pleading with the minister and the government for freezing the Land Bill until the land conference, the attendants nevertheless felt the need to exhaust all necessary and available legal channels to sound out their plea for the freezing of the Land Bill.

One such avenue the land dispossessed would contemplate is a peaceful demonstration and/or even an indefinite sit-in when Parliament resumes its business on February 14.

Another is making a special written plea to the president of the republic for him to prevail upon the ministry and to talk sense into it the imprudence of tabling the Land Bill before the envisaged land conference, seeing this as the only platform for sharing their sentiments on the land question, noting that 26 years after independence there is nothing to be proud about regarding the country’s resettlement programme, in the least not the land dispossessed.

The meeting made particular note of the shortcoming of the resettlement programme – its inability to recognise ancestral land. And as much in his review of the Land Bill, Amon Ngavetene, a lawyer, emphasised while the object of the Land Bill, should it become an act, would be to “To address, in accordance with the Namibian Constitution, injustices of the past which include dispossessions, discrimination and inequitable access to and unequal distribution of land under colonialism and apartheid,” while the land reform process hitherto in its practical implementation has not seen any element of dispossession.

Ngavetene highlighted another salient point of the provisions of the Land Bill, which may be of concern to those clamouring for land, as the forfeiture of grazing rights in the communal areas for those acquiring grazing rights in an agricultural area, saying this provision is oblivious to cultural dynamics such as the need to retain customary land rights for residential purposes such as the holy fire.

Ngavetene sees the core issues entailing land reform, which the Land Bill must speak to, as the claim to ancestral land focusing on and providing higher probabilities of resettlement to those previously dispossessed as opposed to landless.

Further he questions the content resettlement as to whether it is for leasehold or providing a real right of ownership. In terms of the catchment area he proposes that land reform should look at accommodating those who are not eligible for resettlement because their herds do not exceed 150 big livestock but not enough to afford an Affirmative Action Loan.

Lastly as part of land reform, to partly address access to land, communal areas must be developed for the benefit of communities residing in them.

This community land initiative has been initiated with the understanding that there shall be no party politics in its activities; no criticism of any traditional authority; no diversion to issues outside the Land Bill and land question; no racial or tribal inclinations and no unbecoming language.

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