Towards the people’s land conference

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The Landless People’s Movement (LPM)’s People’s Land Conference, scheduled for September 8 and 9, 2017 intends to address issues around ancestral land, land restitution and restorative justice, domestic land resettlement policies and agrarian reform efforts.

The conference shall also be a renewed and sustained effort by LPM to bring to fore Namibian government’s, and by implication the ruling Swapo’s intransigent stance on trampling on indigenous people’s rights and continued refusal to engage peasants on land dispossession by the successive colonial regimes of the Imperial German and Apartheid South Africa.

Indeed, this is some sort of a new internationalism, wherein which LPM shall seek to forge strategic alliances with global peasant movements to bring to fore the landlessness, inequality, poverty and skewed land resettlement policies towards land dispossessed communities in Namibia.

Governments’ mishandling of the so-called resettlement programmes is at the core of the agenda. The continued exclusion of the ancestral land question, and denial of land dispossession, moreso, the critical components of restorative justice, land restitution, land and mineral resource nationalism in the internally displaced communities and land dispossessed areas are forming the core of the grievances of the indigenous peoples and peasants’ demands.

A case in example is the Etosha National Park claims by the indigenous Hai//om community. The indigenous communities and the peasants, south from the red line are unashamedly speaking in unison that the current resettlement programmes only favour those who have not lost their ancestral land, and to those who have not necessarily suffered from the brunt of land dispossession during the successive colonial regimes.

During LPM and NANGOF consultations, especially in the eight regions where colonial practices of land dispossession were rampant, the grassroots people were saying that government’s land resettlement policy is merely a new apartheid policy in a new wine bottle.

LPM has injected a radical policy approach towards land resettlement in Namibia. After Bernadus Swartbooi was fired as deputy minister of land reform by President Hage Geingob last year, for rightfully speaking out against continued unfair distribution of agricultural land, land talks have preoccupied government’s agenda.

Precisely to address such unfairness and inequality, LPM took a decision during its strategy and tactics workshop on 12 May 2017, to convene its own People’s Land Conference, and to come up with what shall be known as the People’s Land Manifesto.

The aim of such a people’s land manifesto would be to guide LPM during governments national land conference, if we are invited at all, that is. It shall also serve as our freedom charter in advocacy programmes, which shall ultimately lead to globalising the local indigenous peoples and peasants land struggles.

Indeed, the current land resettlement programme and land policies are riddled with corruption, favouritism, political patronage, elitism and ethnicity in its outlook and implementation.

Apart from issues ranging from lack of vision, moral and ethical leadership at the ministry of land reform, with its chief technical partners, the GIZ, this conference shall also aim at agrarian reform in Namibia in its totality.

We believe that with the agrarian reform policy in place, communal farmers in the Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, Zambezi and Kavango East and West would reap greater benefits, which shall result in huge yields and agricultural potential.

In order to prepare for the People’s Land Conference, thematic working groups have been established to interrogate and expand upon key issues related to land reform. The consultations held by NANGOF and LPM identified key technical thematic areas that should form the basis of the People’s Land Manifesto and require technical input.

A conversation on land reform and agrarian reform is critical to understand the overall economics of agriculture to the GDP, and to further raise awareness on the economic and financial impact of land reform in terms of socio-economic development and empowerment.

Agrarian reform is currently a buzzword in international agricultural business and land reform activism, but it seems chief policy makers, agricultural economists and economic planners at the ministry of agriculture often have a somewhat unsophisticated understanding of it.

This often leads to aborted plans and initiatives that are unscientific, unfocused and ineffective. There is no synergy between the ministries of agriculture and land reform, which could lead to greater reforms for food sovereignty, water and energy security.

An interventionist approach in which agrarian reform is intended to contribute to fundamental change and transformation is critical. The most important interventionist strategy in the agricultural sector would be a greater investment in holistic applied research on agrarian reform and land reform in order to develop and formulate effective strategic plans, policies, programmes and initiatives.

An integrated agrarian and land reform strategy, encompassing all strategic stakeholders is required to leverage on the resources and bridge the gap that exists in the agribusiness sector.

At the People’s Land Conference, LPM will attempt to showcase best practices, actions and initiatives that would confidently address challenges and offer remedies to current malaise in the country. We hope that such a frank engagement will enhance understanding and knowledge sharing prior to, during, and post-conference on sustainable land reform programmes and agricultural output.

Socio-economic impacts, such as wealth creation from the land, support and improvement of SME farming, employment creation and contribution to GDP and nation building are critical variables.

A much more radical interventionist approach would be to recommend that the current review processes of the national resettlement policy by government be rejected with all the contempt it deserves, pending the inclusion of the recognition of the ancestral land question without any compromise, consensus or conditions, and that land dispossession by the successive colonial regimes be accepted as a crime against humanity for future land restitution claims, resettlement purposes and planning by government.

Other extreme options available are the expropriation of land without any compensation and civil disobedience, which shall include invasion of all commercial farms and radical land-grabbing programme.

The conference will also consider international case studies on land restitution claims with an expressed aim to take its case to the High Court.

Also, other networks of solidarity and legal avenues could be explored, such as taking our case to SADC, the African Union Commission, and the United Nations, Socialist International, World Social Forum and other international forums to plead our case, including before the International Court of Justice and Arbitration.

These processes would also enable LPM to seek solidarity with other progressive nations of the world. The logical outcome would be that the indigenous people’s land claims and peasants’ rights must be recognised by the Namibian government.

* Henny H. Seibeb is the national chairperson of the People’s Land Conference. He can be contacted on hennyseibeb78@gmail.com

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