Keetmanshoop-A fired-up Bernadus Swartbooi, the former deputy minister of land reform, has vowed that landless Namibians will do all in their power and use all legal means at their disposal to get their land back, saying the right of any citizen to settle anywhere in the country does not give them the right to deprive and deny others of their land, nor does it allow anyone to occupy other people’s land.
“We’re not begging for our land. We’re demanding our land,” Swartbooi said during a well-attended meeting of the newly formed Landless People’s Movement at Keetmanshoop on Saturday.
“At independence we saw the return of refugees; we saw the return of self-governance; we saw the return of peace, but we have never seen the return of our land,” he said.
“We were not born landless. We were dispossessed of our land, but the good thing is we know where that land is.”
He said the people who lost land, especially the Nama people, have from the time of the arrival and onslaught of the German colonialists in 1883 merely managed to survive and it is time that they too are given what rightfully belongs to them, so they can start living.
He said it is unfair to celebrate anti-colonial figures, such as Hendrik Witbooi and Samuel Maharero, while denying their children land, adding that the mere mention of their forefathers in political speeches and statements is not enough.
“We don’t eat speeches or statements. We eat from the land and we know where our land is. It’s here where we were dispossessed and it’s here where we want our land.
“So, we say today to President [Hage] Geingob: Mr Geingob, give us back our land. Mr Geingob, we are hungry and thirsty, give back our land. We, as landless and dispossessed Namibians, demand our ancestral land back.”
“If we don’t get what we want from the land conference, we will fight all the way to the courts and will ask the international community and the UN to help us in the genuine quest to get our land back.”
Swartbooi further labelled the current land resettlement programme “a useless programme” that should be stopped immediately, saying he is disappointed beyond belief that government plans to acquire only five million hectares of farmland by 2020.
“The current resettlement programme must be shut down, because it’s a useless programme. One reason it’s useless is that the State says by 2020 it must have acquired five million hectares of land. For people that lost more than 52 million hectares of land, you want to buy five million hectares back? Are you serious, did you apply your mind?”
He also denied the notion that demanding ancestral land is harking back to colonial Bantustans, saying many people that were dispossessed of their land were forced into in arid reserves and until today they remain there languishing in poverty and misery, therefore, the demand for the return of their land is justified.
Swartbooi further said the Landless People’s Movement is not an ethnically based or tribal grouping, nor is it a political party, but rather a social movement fighting for land justice.
“We say this proudly and without contradiction, because we’re not tribalist and we’re not in any political set-up to unseat anyone. We are and we will always be about land justice,” he proclaimed during his one and half-hour speech.
Swartbooi declared the meeting at Keetmanshoop as the beginning of a long march towards a better day. A similar meeting was held at Maltahöhe on Sunday, with other meetings to follow in other parts of the country in coming days.