Basson on land, development and resources of //Karas Region

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//Karas Regional Governor Lucia Basson spoke to New Era journalist Matheus Hamutenya on a variety of subjects, such as the land issue, the resettlement of the landless and the fact that //Karas is one of the richest regions in Namibia in terms of natural resources.

NE: Some residents of
//Karas Region have held demonstrations over the land issue in recent weeks. What’s your take on the land issue in Namibia in general?

LB: The land issue in our country is and will always remain a sensitive issue that needs to be handled with great care. Collectively we should come up with possible long-lasting solutions to the issue of land and its redistribution. It should be a joint effort by all relevant stakeholders, such as government, unions and traditional authorities to find common ground on all land-related issues. So, for now the land issue is manageable, but it has the potential – if not well managed – to get out of hand.

I believe the land demonstrators have genuine concerns, but I don’t condone the way they are doing things. There are different ways to ensure your voice is heard by the right people that can make a difference.

So, I support people that are speaking about land, because we have been robbed of our land. Some of these white people are sitting on productive land that belongs to our people. I don’t want to talk about ancestral land, but even the names of these farms have clicks, which means a lot, as to whom these farms belong.

The truth is we have been robbed of our productive land and we have been put in communal areas with nothing.

The traditional authorities in these communal areas have no productive land and it’s tough, especially during the drought. And these people didn’t even get assistance from the government, whereas those on commercial farms got help from government.
We have lost land. It’s a fact and I support people fighting for land, but let’s use the right channels.

NE: What are your views on the resettlement programme? Has it failed to address land redistribution?

LB: No, I will not say the resettlement programme has failed. This is just a policy issue. We are following the policy and unless we have the next conference to discuss the loopholes in the resettlement programme and make some changes then it will continue like this, but we shouldn’t say it has failed, because we are following what the policy says. So, we’ve not failed. Overall I believe we’re doing well with the resettlement programme, although I believe there is room for improvement.

NE: People say the resettlement committee, of which you are chairperson, is “useless”, as the final decision on land allocation lies with the land reform minister. What do you say about this?

LB: Yes, but it’s a policy issue again. The minister and the national resettlement committee are guided by the policy, so if the policy wasn’t like that then it would be something else. You know, when we fought for the independence of this country we all fought for land, so if landless Namibians apply to be resettled – whether you are from Zambezi or whichever region – I have no problem with that.

My only problem is my people in the south are small stock farmers and due to the fact that the people have lost land, at least when the land allocations are done at the national level 70 or 80 percent of those resettled should be from this region.

The last people who were allocated farms were about six people and it was 50-50, three from this region and three from other regions, and I don’t like this 50-50. It should at least be four people from the region and two from other regions.

You know, when the minister decentralised some functions of the Land Reform Ministry, he withheld the resettlement functions, because he knows if he gives the resettlement to the regions, nobody from the other regions will be resettled here.

You can’t believe that you get over 200 applications for one farming unit and of that you can only recommend three. So, if I was to be given the mandate, together with my committee to resettle people, do you think I will look at other people from other regions, while so many people in the region are interested in farming and need land?
We are not useless, as we play a crucial role in the entire process and we do other activities to help resettled farmers.

NE: Many southerners feel they are overlooked and are still landless, as farms are mostly given to people from other regions. Is this the case?

LB: That is not true at all. I’m sitting here with a list of resettlement beneficiaries since April 2010 and it shows more people from the region have benefited from resettlement. So, it’s not true to say most beneficiaries are from other regions. And I want to make it clear that I have never in my time in office recommended people from other regions to be resettled [here], because there are so many landless people in the region that want land and are interested in farming. But I also have a problem with people from other regions who are resettled [in //Karas] but they never take up the farms, while others remain landless. I think it’s high time we take these farms back and give them to other people.

NE: Do you think the Land Bill should be tabled before the land conference?

LB: I think the tabling of the Land Bill should wait until after the land conference, because even I, as the chairperson of the //Karas resettlement committee and as governor, have not received or seen the Bill and I have requested it through the land reform deputy director, so that stakeholders can meet and interrogate and give our input as a region. So, I think we should wait, because it’s very important that we get the views of all the people. I’ve been informed that even the national resettlement committee members have not gone through the Bill. So, let the minister not be in a hurry. It’s our Bill, it should be a Bill for the people by the people, so it should come back to the people. And we understand what the minister is saying, but we should also give all stakeholders a chance in all 14 regions to make inputs.

NE: You were special advisor Bernadus Swartbooi when he was //Karas governor, what would you have advised him to do when he was asked by the head of state to apologise or resign.

LB: I told you I don’t want to talk about that, so no comment on Clinton.

NE: The region has slightly improved in grade 10 and 12 results of 2016, what do you think should be done to keep improving academic performance?

LB: Discipline is key, the discipline of learners and the seriousness of teachers is important. These children are not serious with their education and they are not disciplined. They are not stupid. No one is stupid, so they just need to be serious with their schoolwork. Another thing is the involvement of the parents in their children’s education, which is totally missing and most headmasters will agree with me, parents are not there to help their children.

NE: You always say //Karas is the richest region, but has the poorest residents, what do you mean by this?

LB: You know our region has resources. The region is very rich, but if you look at the people you will realise that these resources are not benefitting them. We have diamonds, zinc, we have the fishing industry and so on, but all these resources are just flying out of the region and not coming to my people. We’re not getting anything from these resources.We are rich in terms of resources but there is nothing that you can see and there is nothing that I can be proud of as a governor, which a private company has done for the people. Some companies even employ people from other countries, while people here remain unemployed. And I’m not talking about donating food. We want tangible developments, we want to see clinics and youth facilities being built.

NE: It’s been 26 years since independence and grape workers, especially at Aussenkehr, continue to live in reed houses with no toilet facilities. Has government failed the grape workers?

LB: I disagree that government has failed. These are not government farms. These are private farms, but as political leaders we have taken up these issues and we have on several occasions engaged various companies, especially on the issue of housing, so that we can get rid of these reed houses. It’s not our responsibility to provide better housing [on private farms], but we have done and are doing our part too in consulting these companies to make things better.’

NE: What can the people of //Karas expect from you this year?

LB: I expect to work closely with the people and I will help my people fight poverty in whatever way and with whatever challenges we may face and with the little resources we have. So, I urge the residents to consult my office and come up with proposals on how we can move forward together.

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