Were recent consultations on land worth the trouble?

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The Ministry of Land Reform has lately been crisscrossing the country staging what it terms a “consultative workshop in preparation of the Second National Land Conference”.

Surely nobody can, must and should, in their right mind, be against the ministry making appropriate preparations for the said conference. Indeed only good preparations can guarantee partial success. Provided such preparations first and foremost are in terms of all stakeholders having unfettered and genuine requisite, necessary and relevant input first, in the agenda of the upcoming conference.

And secondly, inputting into the format of the conference, so that all relevant stakeholders would crucially have as much unfettered contributions from the floor. And lastly, ensuring that all relevant stakeholders, especially those with the land question at their hearts based on their historic link and association to land, and the land question, would not only be invited to the conference but would be allowed to speak out their hearts and minds on the vexed question of land.

And to determine that the delegates who would attend the conference, because one cannot expect such a conference to be a free for all, would provide constructive inputs, with appreciation and tolerance of diverse views and sentiments of the various lobbyists and interest groups, barring blind parochialism.

Needless to say, the Second National Land Conference must review all aspects of land distribution and redistribution, which entail the country’s land reform policy and its various subtexts like the National Resettlement Policy. Without being preposterous, policy and legal instruments, 27 years after Namibian independence, and the First National Land Conference, the 24 resolutions taken at the First National Land Conference, must by now have been in place. Thus, the Second National Land Conference must revisit, first and foremost, to what extent these resolutions, where necessary, have been codified into laws.

And to what extent these laws have been implemented successfully, and if not, why not? And to look at whether the policies implemented have had the desired outcome, and even unintended consequences and how the latter could be rectified, even if it means redefining such policies.

Policies may not have had the desired outcomes, not necessarily because they are not the right policies and laws, but because they have not been observed and implemented properly, not to mention non-implementation per se. The ministry must be prepared to give account of such policies and laws at the said conference – why the policies and laws pertaining to land distribution and redistribution, have not, if this is the case, had the desired and intended outcomes. Once the ministry has accounted to the conference in this regard, it would then be further up to the conference to further direct it, as delegates may deem fit. Which could entail that some of the policies in this regard may have been a non-starter fundamentally, thus needing an overhaul to achieve the desired and intended effects. Or that they may have been ineffective simply because there’s a lack of a political will to realise their desired outcomes. Or the desired outcomes are hindered not only by bureaucratic red tape, but willful actions of the bureaucrats, for their own agendas, not to see the desired outcomes.

Still, in some aspects and respects, policies may be non-existent at all. A case in point being any policy on ancestral land, in as much as the National Resettlement Policy speaks of correcting past injustices, including dispossessions. One cannot but wonder if this has been the approach by the ministry with respect to the just-ended consultations in anticipation of the Second National Land Conference. One understands at the said consultations, without much ado the 24 resolutions were reviewed-rammed down the throats of the unsuspecting participants in the recent consultations.

Which raises not only the essence of such consultations but also the effectiveness of such an approach as a purported preparation for the Second National Land Conference. Because the input into the much-awaited land conference should less be a pre-occupation of the land reform ministry, unless it becomes suspect to trying to stage-manage the outcomes as well as the agenda of the upcoming Second National Land Conference.

On the contrary, these should be the foremost pre-occupation of the various lobbyists like farmers unions, civic organisations, traditional authorities, etc.

One has as yet to hear if the said consultations have produced the intended outcomes, such being from the perspective of the land reform ministry and not the landless and land hungry. But initial reports from independent sources who have been attending some of these consultations have by no means been inspiring, like the one in Gobabis on July 14, which is said to have been temporarily aborted for the better half of the first day because civic organisations felt their voices were not being heard.

Under these circumstances one cannot but wonder why, what should essentially have been an internal process to the ministry itself in terms of putting in place the necessary preparatory mechanisms for the Second National Land Conference, has it deliberately been entangled in consultations with the landless and land hungry.

One cannot but also have reservations about how those who may have been attending these consultations could appropriately and genuinely be said to have been representing the broader views of the various constituents of such an important and crucial issue as land without them rarely, if there were those who did, consulting such constituencies?

Basically the so-called consultations must be nothing more than a pure and simple planning process by the authority concerned, not warranting any consultations with the broader institutions and civic society. It is mindboggling how layman landless and land hungry could genuinely be expected to be intelligently and constructively instrumental in the crucial review of the 1991 land conference resolutions. Prior to the long overdue another land conference, a sequel to the first which is not only expected but as a matter of urgency scrutinise the entire land question to date?

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