…Land grabbing moves from Katima Mulilo > Windhoek > Walvis Bay > Rehoboth, where to next?
Thousands of Namibians have in recent months expressed their frustrations to what they perceive as ‘slow pace’ at which the land issue is being addressed in the country. This is a situation which has led to land-starved Namibians taking matters into their own hands.
So far four towns have experienced the wrath of land-hungry Namibians, and in all cases the Namibian Police had to be called in to keep law and order.
Land ownership has become such a critical need for many Namibians, while the situation has become so extreme that thousands of landless Namibians are advancing towards an uncertain future as they scramble to lay claim to a piece of land which they can call their own.
The current housing backlog in the country stands over 120 000. Government recently announced that there are about 27 310 serviced plots available countrywide, while over 89 399 plots are ready to be serviced.
Many have waited for years on waiting lists of town councils with no positive response coming forth. There were also predictions that the situation would become so untenable that the public will take matters into their own hands-those predictions have started to manifest.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba 2012 warned of a potential land revolution in 2012, but he would not have in his wildest imaginations have thought it would happen so soon.
“Since people have no land they have no means of production. We need to amend the constitution otherwise we will face a revolution, and if it happens land will be taken over by the revolutionaries,” the former President warned at the time.
Government last year committed to service 200 000 after it entered into a deal with AR, only to come out last month and say it cannot afford to deliver on its promise.
President Hage Geingob said last month the project will cost between N$29,8 billion to N$43,6 billion depending on the terrain to service the promised plots. He said the figure was provided by a local engineering firm that was approached by the Presidency to cost the project
“I have a five-year term of which one year is already gone, Harambee is now trying to implement my policies in the remaining four years. Whether we are still aiming for 200 000, we would not have money and we will not even finish servicing all those plots in four years,” Geingob said at the time.
In his Harambee Prosperity Plan, Geingob promised to construct 20,000 new houses nationwide, service a minimum of 26,000 new residential plots countrywide during his first term.
Land grabbers patronized by the Affirmative Repositioning movement are not happy with the pace at which the land issue is being addressed.
The country has already seen a scramble to lay claim to resources such as state contracts, mineral concessions and prime land that is perceived to be more accessible to the few patronized by those high up in government at the expense of the masses. AR has however maintained that the land grab acts across the country would have manifested with or without its existence because
“Namibians are tired of being kept waiting”. NamPol’s Inspector General, Lieutenant Sebastian Ndeitunga said it is not up to the police to decide whether the demands of those seeking land are valid or not, but rather to maintain law and order.
Ndeitunga warned that the spread of land grabbing to different towns across the country could lead the country into ‘anarchy’.
“Why take country towards anarchy, we should know that a chaotic situation can bring the country to a standstill in terms of development, look at how others messed up their countries. We are not saying their demands are right or wrong, but there are other ways to pursue demands, but when you want to grab land we will not tolerate it,” he charged.
Ndeitunga also castigated those who accuse the police of using too much force when dealing with land grabbers.
“Why should you grab the land, why commit crime if you do not want force to be used, people were warned and they do not listen. They do not want police to use force but they use force to take property that does not belong to them, said Ndeitunga.
The police intervenes to avoid chaos, said the general, adding that the police will not allow anyone to violate the country’s laws regardless of the demands.
“Laws must be respected, whatever you demand must be within the confines of the laws, people can go to their representatives in parliament if they have a problem with certain laws regarding the laws. If someone takes the law into their own hands they are essentially disregarding the validity of the Constitution that regulates the lives of all living in this country,” Ndeitunga said. AR co-founder Dimbulukeni Nauyoma is of the view that the public lost faith in government’s land promise.
“We are not spearheading the land grabbing, people are just fed up with being told to continue waiting, in fact we have assumed the duties of government of engaging the public,” he said. According to Nauyoma: “We continue telling the officials to fasten the process of implementation not to show that we have power but rather to show that we are in touch with the people. Every day we tell the people to remain calm, till when are we going to continue telling people to keep calm while they see land being dished out to the elites.”
Nauyoma also accused the police of becoming trigger happy during land protests instead of using minimal force. “Many people are becoming unhappy because of the way in which the police conducts itself, some have even considered mobilizing themselves to go to police stations and riot. How can the institution which is tasked with protecting people open fire on innocent people that have no weapons?” he questioned.
“We are just waiting to see which town is next. It is just a matter of time before you hear of people grabbing land in another town. All these things are rallied by people saying we want to make Hage’s[Geingob] government ungovernable. How can we do that if we struck a deal with government?” Nauyoma further questioned, saying AR’s willingness to discuss land issues with government before acting is a clear sign that both parties want an amicable solution to the land problem.
Nauyoma said: “Our involvement is a sign that we are the only hope they[populace] have to assist and mitigate the situation. Politicians are frustrated because we are doing what they must do even though they are the ones who were elected.