WINDHOEK – Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma says his interview with CheckPoint, an investigative current affairs TV programme on South African broadcaster eNCA, which screened last week, was deliberately manipulated to conform to the station’s ulterior political agenda.
Nujoma came under fire last week for his views on the show, especially remarks regarding poor people’s supposed challenges to thrive on productive resettlement farms.
He was responding to presenter Nkepile Mabuse’s question on why many rich people in Namibia, including Cabinet ministers, were beneficiaries of the land resettlement programme ahead of poor people who need to be key beneficiaries of this empowerment scheme.
“If you give a farm, a very expensive one, for example to a poor person, how will he run it?” responded Nujoma, who said he acquired a loan to purchase his farm.
The minister also remarked that Swapo freedom fighters were “tired of being in the bush” and thus reached a “compromise” with the then white rulers of Namibia. Such compromises included an understanding not to forcefully take land from white Namibians, a minority group in whose hands most of the country’s productive land currently finds itself.
One of such land owners, Diethelm Metzger, said on CheckPoint that he cannot share his land because if he does he will not be able to live the life he wants. He was responding to a question on whether he did not feel that sharing land with the majority blacks, who were forcefully dispossessed of their land by colonisers, was necessary to correct the wrongs of the country’s brutal past.
Nujoma, the man charged with the duty of overseeing the distribution and redistribution of land, was roundly condemned for his remarks.
On social media, some went as far as calling for his removal from his post.
Condemning his remarks, the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement said: “Utoni Nujoma is an elite with a farm, multiple fishing rights, properties and bank accounts in foreign countries. It should not be expected of him to love the poor.”
But speaking to New Era yesterday, Nujoma said he gave a lengthy interview to eNCA wherein he provided perspectives on the thorny issue of land. His remarks on how the government is helping the poor with resettlement were not aired, he contests. Such perspectives were deliberately cut out and therefore created an impression that he was anti-poor.
“This was a long interview. For example, we talked about people that we have resettled at Skoonheid in the Omaheke Region and how government has helped them in terms of training and so forth, but this was deliberately omitted,” he explained in a telephonic interview yesterday.
“It is unfortunate that this interview was conducted somewhere else for a certain purpose and then they took what they wanted, cut and paste to suit their agenda. This is why at times we do not want to talk journalists – this is the reason,” said Utoni.
“What I said is that we cannot just take anybody from anywhere, be it is from Katutura or Ludwigsdorf, and resettle them. They need training and this is what we have been doing but the reporter deliberately cut out most parts of that,” he said.
“I don’t know where this thing of me being anti-poor is coming from. We have resettled communities at Skoonheid and Kalaharibrag and we have given them training, and some even got loans of Agribank,” said Nujoma.
He said the ministry currently has tailor-made programmes that suit every Namibian – whether old, poor or rich. Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) MP Vipua Muharukua on Friday called on Swapo Secretary General Sophia Shaningwa to confirm whether Nujoma’s comments reflected the position of the ruling party on land reform.
“Is Minister Nujoma implying that the poor people are ignorant and stupid to run farms after working as laborers for years despite only being denied management roles because of the colour of their skin,” he asked.