Windhoek-President Hage Geingob yesterday challenged the newly-formed Landless People’s Movement – who held public gatherings in protest over ancestral land – to come up with tangible proposals, acceptable within the context of a united, free and reconciled Namibia.
Geingob’s remarks, made at the opening of the first decision-making session of Cabinet, came hours before the movement, linked to Swapo backbencher and former lands deputy minister Clinton Swartbooi, marched to the Zoo Park yesterday, where they handed over a petition to the National Assembly deputy speaker Loide Kasingo.
The petition cites issues ranging from ancestral land, which the group demands should be returned to tribes, to halting of the resettlement programme, agrarian reform and the dismissal of land reform minister Utoni Nujoma, whom they accuse of a string of misgivings.
Swartbooi – who was relieved of his ministerial duties in late 2016 –has recently started a series of meetings over ancestral land which he says three Namibian tribes were dispossessed of by outsiders.
Swartbooi, a former spokesperson of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL), is using the meetings to urge landless Namibians to 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 their land, not does it allow anyone to occupy other people’s land.
It was against that background that Geingob yesterday cautioned this group and others purporting to fight for land that peace is easy to destroy but difficult to build.
The President emphasised that it is important that the nation approaches the land issue with utmost sincerity and clarity.
He said the land issue is being used by despondent individuals and groups from various quarters as a fuse which they hope will ignite an explosion of chaos in the country.
“We should not forget the example of Libya and Iraq in which people sought to disrupt orderly systems in the hope of creating better ones. Today, both these countries remain engulfed in perpetual ethnic conflict and war which has resulted in the emergence of frustrated societies,” he warned.
According to Geingob, there is nothing wrong with belonging to tribes but urged citizens to never lose sight of being Namibian and the responsibility that comes with that.
“Our tribes are part and parcel of our genealogy and African heritage and we should be proud of who we are. But let us avoid placing the ism at the end of the word tribal,” he cautioned.
“We should never lose sight of the fact that the Namibian House, which we are building on the cornerstones of democracy, unity, the rule of law, peace and stability, is a house characterised by inclusivity and pluralism,” he noted.
Further, he said there is no separatism in the proverbial Namibian House, saying it is a house where all areas are open to all inhabitants, whether these inhabitants are related or unrelated.
He maintained the Namibian House is a place in which all Namibians are united by the need for economic emancipation and inclusive economic development.
“It’s strange that certain people are displaying a great determination to ridicule the concepts which we have put in place in order to accelerate our development. Let us disappoint them by succeeding,” Geingob said.
He vowed that together with his team they are prepared to take up duties and responsibilities this year.
Hence he urged them to remain committed to the unity and togetherness which has carried the country well for so many years.
“We should never get tired of peace, stability and unity; and must therefore carry out duties with the interest of maintaining these noble ideals. Let us take heed and be wary of the centrifugal force which is spurning the ever-simmering tribalism, which is threatening to place our well managed governance architecture into disrepair. It’s difficult to build but easy to destroy,” he reacted.
It is with this reality that Geingob engaged Minister Nujoma before announcing this week the postponement of the tabling of the contentious Land Bill to allow for a national dialogue, where everyone would get a chance to recommend solutions to the land issue.