Regional visits for second land conference to commence in July

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-The Ministry of Land Reform has dismissed rumours that have been doing the rounds that the long-awaited second national land conference will not take place this year due to financial constraints.

Over the past few weeks speculation was rife that Minister of Land Reform Utoni Nujoma had cancelled the land conference because of financial constraints.

However, when contacted for comment on Friday Land Reform Ministry spokesperson Chrispin Matongela dismissed the allegations as null and void. He said regional consultations are expected to commence in earnest in the second week of July, starting in Khomas Region, for the official launch of the regional visits by the minister.

“The allegations are not true. All the groundwork regarding the hosting of the second land conference are on course as planned,” Matongela said.

He said the launch would culminate in all 14 regional consultations by four teams, comprised of senior government officials from the land reform ministry and other key stakeholders from other ministries, to create an inter-ministerial committee.

“The dates and venue have already been secured for this Kgotla [pubic meeting]. This is just a synopsis and impression to allay doubts in the minds of the Namibian people about the planned conference. Major details and specifics will be outlined by the minister at the launch,” Matongela noted.

He further clarified that the budgetary allocations for the said budget line have been secured. “A budget has already been secured for this mammoth task, and we are ready to hit the ground running in order to accomplish this national duty.”

He, however, declined to mention the exact figure set aside for the conference, saying the minister would officially announce the amount before the event.

Nujoma launched preparations for the Second National Conference on Land Reform and the Land Question in August last year.

The second conference, which landless Namibians hope will address and deliberate on issues pertaining to their needs, specifically to the pressing issue of residential land, is scheduled to take place in September.

Earlier this year a fired-up former deputy minister of land reform, Bernadus Swartbooi, started a series of meetings over ancestral land, in which he reportedly alleged that the landless southerners were being denied fair resettlement options in favour of outsiders from the region, particularly northerners, who appear to get preferential access.

Swartbooi vowed that landless Namibians would do all in their power and use all legal means at their disposal to get their ancestral 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 ancestral land, nor does it allow anyone to occupy other people’s land.

A year after independence in 1990, the government steered a national debate on the land issue, culminating in the National Conference on Land Reform and the Land Question.

Some landless Namibians feel that the first land conference seemed to have focused mainly on agricultural land, while the issue of residential land had not been deliberated on.

If and when the second national land conference takes place, it will critically review the history of colonial dispossession, equity, efficiency and promoting productive and sustainable livelihoods through implementing programmes targeted at poverty eradication.

At the launch last August, Nujoma said although the first conference deliberated on colonial dispossession, which focused on how to restore land rights that were taken away under colonial rule and how to stop the exploitation of farmworkers, these issues are still relevant 25 years after independence, as the levels of economic deprivation continue to grow.

The consensus resolutions of the land reform conference of 1991 mandated the ministry under the leadership of then minister of lands and resettlement Marco Hausiku to, among others, implement the 24 resolutions.

The resolutions of that first conference focused on issues such as foreign ownership of land, under-utilisation of freehold land, the expropriation of absentee landlords’ land, the sizes and ownership of farms, land tax on commercial farms and issues related to communal land, among many others.

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