Windhoek-Renowned Kenyan lawyer and academic Prof Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba has warned Namibia that it must resolve the land question to avoid conflict, as experienced in other parts of Africa, particularly Zimbabwe.
Land is the principal source of livelihood and sustenance for many Namibians and has been at the heart of tension and conflict in the country during both colonial times and more recently.
Due to the frustration of landless Namibians – many of whom have no place to call home – some decided to take the law into own hands and resorted to grabbing land, citing government failure to adequately redistribute land and address their plight.
“It’s a problem that must be resolved, because if it’s not resolved it will become cancerous and it will eat everybody. I have no doubt in my mind that the Namibians in their collective wisdom will find a solution. That is my faith, wish, desire, that’s all I can say,” he advised on Wednesday when he delivered two public lectures as part of New Era Publication Corporation Thought Leaders Series.
His advice comes days after President Hage Geingob announced that he had decided to postpone the much-awaited second land conference, that was slated for September 18, following a series of concerns expressed by stakeholders, such as Namibia Non-Governmental Organisation Forum (NANGOF), as well as the Swapo Party Youth League leadership, who felt there is need for wider public consultation.
However, Landless People’s Movement (LPM) national chairperson Henny Seibeb has confirmed they will hold their own land conference, which is expected to start today and end on Friday.
Seibeb said it will not be business as usual, as LPM has established thematic working groups that will aggressively interrogate and expand upon key issues related to land reform.
Lumumba said the land question is an emotive one and that there is a need to deal with it, based on the lessons learned from successful models of land reform, such as in Kenya, which is currently undergoing one of the most deep-going pro-poor land reforms in post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa.
The reforms underway in Kenya have direct and far-reaching implications for security, stability, and economic development and also offer an opportunity for profound improvement in gender equity in land ownership.
If effectively implemented, Kenya’s land reforms could serve as a model for other sub-Saharan African countries.
In the case of Namibia, Lumumba said we must deal with the issues as a matter of urgency – provided that all stakeholders are consulted.
“This is your own problem. All concerned parties must be involved and those landowners must be persuaded and made to understand that if land is not resolved now, it will remain a problem.
“So, how do you deal with it? I do not have the details in dealing with it, but they must begin to see the land in an agreed manner by involving the locals” so that they are part of the solution, Lumumba remarked.
He advised that the land question should be resolved in a manner that is sensitive to the socio-economic realities of the country and should not disrupt production. If not, there will be dire consequences, like Zimbabwe currently faces.
He noted the case of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe who has been criticized over failures in the country’s controversial land reform programme.
“[He is] suffering from prima donna syndrome – the belief by the pop dancer that she must never leave the stage. No matter how good the dancer is, you must leave the stage. Shakespeare was right, we have our comings and goings. He [Mugabe] had his comings… [but] there’s no goings.”
He said Mugabe who was once praised by the world as a great man who accumulated so many historical trades has blown it, as ultimately he failed to resolve the land issue.
Lumumba, however, praised Namibian leaders, including founding president Sam Nujoma, his successor Hifikepunye Pohamba and incumbent President Hage Geingob for sustaining a culture of peace and stability. “You have Sam Nujoma alive and well; you have Hifikepunye Pohamba. You have Geingob. You have ticked one box. Tick the other box. In Botswana, they have also ticked the box. They had Seretse Khama, Quett Masire, Festus Mogae and Ian Khama,” he noted.