A draft Revised National Resettlement Policy 2018-2027 is currently on the radar and the Ministry of Land Reform has embarked on consulting communities in all 14 regions.
The need and urgency for such a policy cannot be overemphasized, but doing so ahead of the second land conference slated for this September defies logic.
One is much aware that last year the ministry tried to steamroll the Land Reform Bill in the National Assembly, only for President Hage Geingob to put the brake to such efforts, pending the national land conference lined up this year.
The tabling has been delayed by the need for broad and appropriate public consultations. Thus, it is only mindboggling how the ministry can now be toying with the revision of the resettlement policy ahead of this important national gathering.
The revised policy basically seeks to address and remedy some aspects to the broader question of land, which is equitability in access to land and the distribution and/or redistribution of land. Ordinarily, the revision should, one would have thought, preceded the Land Reform Bill to inform the content of the Land Reform Bill, which has since been shelved for now until the national land conference takes place.
Only to know learn and hear, as the policy readily admits, that the very revision that should have informed this Bill, has been conducted consistent with the Land Reform Bill. Also, the reviewers in their review, have adopted the “fundamental and guiding principles stipulated in the Land Reform Bill (2010).”
One cannot take away from some of the goals, objectives and guiding principles of the revised policy. Among them which are to right past colonial wrongs in access to achieve social and economic equity in access to land. And also to make special provisions for Namibian citizens – for the unemployed and incapacitated, among others. Despite making reference to dispossession and “restoring” and “securing” land to them, the policy does not clarify who the dispossessed may be. “Restoring and securing the land rights of mainly Black Namibians who had lost their land or whose rights were deemed weak or insecure,” read the revised policy.
Further, the policy cites those who may be eligible as the “previously disadvantaged” but also qualify in terms of eligibility for resettlement that there is “no prioritisation of any group” based on race, colour or creed. If one scrutinises the policy, one cannot but conclude that it does not go to the fundamentals of land distribution and/or redistribution, including the claims of those who may have been dispossessed of land and thus have lost land in the colonial past. Because this is the essence or should be part of the essence of any land distribution and/or re-distribution, especially if the premise of righting past colonial injustices, dispossessions and restoration, is to have any practical and equitable meaning.
As much as one appreciates the need and importance to stimulate debate on the vexed land question before the Second National Land Conference later this year, the policy seems grossly wanting in addressing the fundamentals of the land question, one of which is ancestral land. The land issue, and incidentally the government’s resettlement programme, has since independence in 1990, and following the First National Land Conference in 1991, been under a surgical microscope. Especially for its failure to address the fundamentals of the land question. That is why the land question has constantly been under the microscope, and as much the national resettlement programme. Simply put, the necessary mix and fix to the land question, and the attendant resettlement programme, have been elusive to the effect that a solution to the land question has never been in sight. As corollary the resettlement programme, for a greater part has been a near miss. Not necessarily and only because of the inefficacies and inefficiencies in its implementation, but greatly because of its fundamentality and principles. Hence, the clarion call for the Second National Land Conference. This conference has eagerly been awaited by all and sundry, least not those with ancestral land rights claims, that the revised resettlement policy remains disturbingly mute on. Every one has been waiting to have his/her field day at the Second National Land Conference, not in the least those with ancestral land rights claims. For this conference to once and for all find and put closure to this vexed issue, without which the broader land question cannot be found closure to.
The Revised National Resettlement Policy speaks of dispossession, past colonial wrongs and most importantly of restoring whatever needs to be restored. But restore what and to who remains the pertinent question? Thus the essence of the Revised National Resettlement Policy cannot but be questionable in the absence of a holistic approach to the broader land question. In anticipation of the long overdue Second National Land Conference, one cannot but see the said revision as nothing but a wastage of much-needed resources which could prudently have been applied towards the organisation of the Second National Land Conference, especially in these times of financial austerity.