Windhoek-Landless People’s Movement (LPM) national chairperson Henny Seibeb said come Thursday and Friday, it will not be business as usual, as the LPM has established thematic working groups to interrogate and expand upon key issues related to land reform.
LPM’s People’s Land Conference, scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday, intends to address issues around ancestral land, land restitution and restorative justice, domestic land resettlement policies and agrarian reform efforts.
“Our meeting is going to take place on Thursday and Friday, as scheduled. We have a lot of agenda items. We are just going to enter and start discussions after the prayer. There is nothing like ‘honourable, I recognise you’. No, we won’t waste time,” Seibeb reacted when asked whether they are ready for the conference.
His response comes days after President Hage Geingob revealed that he decided to postpone the second land conference that was slated for September 18.
Geingob said his decision was prompted by a series of concerns articulated by stakeholders, such as the Namibia Non-Governmental Organisation Forum (NANGOF), as well as the Swapo Party Youth League leadership, who felt there is need for further public consultation.
However, Seibeb said they are going to talk about motives for developing “a people’s agrarian reform programme”, as well as the issue of absentee landlords and foreign ownership of land.
Further, he said they will focus on harmonising conflicting land and natural resources rights and benefits, urban land reform, lessons learned from the affirmative action scheme, governance and institutional land reform.
He said LPM will also review the current resettlement policy and its implementation porgramme. “We are also going to look at options of the development and support of communal areas, including virgin land. We will look at constitutional law, restorative justice and ancestral land claims,” he noted.
On the history of dispossession in Namibia, Seibeb said they are going to study the history of how Namibians were settled in pre-colonial Africa before European colonialists came. He said the aim is to devise a people’s land manifesto.
Asked what they plan to do with the recommendations, he said, “We plan to give them to the president and his team. We won’t just give recommendations, but we will seek audience to give solutions, which is important for sustainable development.”
Further, he vowed that they will also submit the same document to the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), SADC and land rights campaign group, La Via Campesina, as well as various other civil society groups.
He said LPM was at the forefront of ensuring government postponed the upcoming land conference.
“In fact, if the president is genuine, the pressure came from LPM, not from NANGOF and Swapo Party Youth League, as he claims. He just doesn’t want to use the word LPM, he is just using politics. That’s why you see LPM did not attack the president when he announced it because we knew he was going to postpone.”
He is hopeful that Geingob will appoint an ad hoc commission that will include critical stakeholders with an independent chairperson, who will go and study successful models of land reform.
“This will help cut out the inefficient bureaucracy of the Ministry of Land Reform. He must fire [Land Reform Minister] Utoni Nujoma and his permanent secretary [Peter Amutenya]. They excluded key stakeholders… and they also failed to listen to our input.”
“They made the conference so narrow only to discuss resettlement and we told them it should be opened. We told them, ‘Discuss everything, including ancestral land.’ Why should we be scared as if in a war situation?” he asked.
Uhuru Dempers, the convener of NANGOF, said although the NANGOF letterhead was used, the letter to the president was signed by many civil society organisations, including the Council of Churches in Namibia, National Youth Council, Namibia Housing Action Group, Legal Assistance Centre, Namibia CBNRM Support Organisation, the Trade Union Congress of Namibia, and the /Naosan-/Aes Land Movement.
He called on all Namibians with a stake in the land reform process to make use of the additional time granted by the president to engage in constructive dialogue and debates on how best to address the land problem.