…..as opposition parties propose land solutions
Opposition parties this week proposed an avalanche of solutions to Namibia’s current land impasse and outlined plans on how they would handle the land saga should they govern the country.
Most, if not all, opposition parties harbour the feeling that the ruling party has failed to devise effective land acquisition, distribution and redistribution measures.
Some party leaders also fear that Namibia runs the risk of a civil war that could emanate from the frustrations of the landless people.
Some of the opposition parties warned that it is only a matter of time before the land issue erupts into chaos which will be a direct threat to peace and stability of the country.
During individual interviews with The Patriot this week, opposition party leaders singled-out the “willing-buyer-willing-seller” as the biggest challenge when it comes to transferring land into Namibian hands.
This comes despite a 2015 government-commissioned study found that the willing buyer, willing seller model was still the best for Namibia’s land reform despite its shortcomings. However the situation on the ground tells a different story because the model is said to have given foreign land owners leeway to inflate land prices beyond what government can afford.
“It has been observed that, despite its shortcomings, the market-based land redistribution often dubbed, ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ approach is still the best tool for land redistribution,” the study found.
The study into land prices in Namibia was released was commissioned by Namibia’s land and resettlement ministry and was conducted by Fleefort Muzyamba and Andrew Hilton, with the help of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation.
Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba acknowledged on numerous occasions that the model has failed and warned commercial farmers in the country that if they do not sell land to the State to resettle the growing number of restless and landless people in the country, the government will find other ways of getting the land back to resettle previously disadvantaged communities.
Speaking to this paper on Monday official opposition party, DTA of Namibia Member of Parliament Vipuakuje Muharukua termed the land issue as very “sensitive” in nature.
“Land is a very sensitive topic especially in the Namibian context that requires one to apply a clear mind without any hidden agenda,” stressed.
According to Muharukua land is sensitive in the sense that the basis of the economy and life “stems” from it.
Muharukua said instead of the much criticised willing-buyer-willing-seller policy, DTA could have taken a different approach to promote black ownership of land.
“The DTA is clear on urban land that the government must ensure that each person (18 years or older) has a dignified place to live in,” said Muharukua.
Muharukua said the government has enough resources at its disposal to accord every Namibian with decent accommodation provided that they are unable to afford the exorbitant housing prices.
“This country has enough money to build houses for those who cannot afford extravagant housing and land prices,” he said.
Muharukua pointed out that other African countries succeeded in providing houses for its masses through urban “resettlement programs”.
“Other countries like Kenya have done the same, the DTA has given this motion in Parliament and it is under scrutiny and investigation,”
“And we hope that it shall be implemented because we see it as the only solution to this urban housing crisis,” said Muharukua.
On the front of resettlement, DTA called for black ownership of land.
“We would give the people full freehold ownership of the land that they live on, it will not be just land that you live on while it belongs to the government,” added Muharukua.
According to the current Namibian laws, only commercial farms and urban land can be privately owned, the rest belongs to the state. This is a situation that the DTA totally opposes.
In addition Muharukua added that the current resettlement programs has failed mainly as a result of giving land to the wrong people.
“We must resettle people who are able to farm, who can farm profitably and who sustain their own farming without continuously relying on government,” he further added.
Going forward Muharukua also warned that to solve the land issue, Muharukua said the government must acknowledge the legitimate claims of ancestral land.
Similarly the DTA parliamentarian said it cannot be denied that colonialism affected all Namibian badly on political and social fronts. But in terms of land the Ovaherero and Nama stand out as the main losers according to Muharukua.
“Not all Namibians were economically and materially equally affected by colonialism,” stressed Muharukua.
In the same light Muharukua said if the land crisis continues being treated with soft hands, it might spark “violence” in the country.
“Land has the potential to spark catastrophe, especially violence,” alerted Muharukua.
Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) President Jeremiah Nambinga said government needs to bear in mind that the Ovaherero and Nama communities were dispossessed of significant chunks of land to German colonial forces present at the time.
“The issue of ancestral land has its roots in 1904, many people particularly the Nama people were dispossessed of their land and it is a fact that we cannot deny,” said Nambinga.
Similarly the RDP president historical records are there to show that the Ovaherero people were dispossessed of their land and driven into the Kalahari desert.
Furthermore, despite the presence of colonial rule, tribes living in the Northern parts of South West Africa (today Namibia) never lost land.
“People in the North (Owambo, Kavango and Zambezi) were not dispossessed land like the Nama and Ovaherero people,” added Nambinga.
In addition Nambinga said that the government has failed to get rid of the “Bantustans” system which was imposed to Namibians by the South African apartheid regime.
“They introduced it (Bantustans) from behind doors, that’s why you have a situation whereby traditional leaders from the Northern parts of our country still have power to allocate land,”
“Whereas the traditional leaders (residing) south of the Red Line have no power to allocate land because they were completely dispossessed of their land,” emphasized Nambinga.
To solve the current land predicament Nambinga said government needs to go back to the “drawing table”.
“The problems we are having today must be faced from as far as 1904 and what the government must do is to go back to the drawing table to address this issue,” added Nambinga.
The veteran politician pointed that the government should have had the “courage” to address Bantustans from the onset.
When asked what the RDP could have done differently in addressing the land issue, Nambinga said: “With the current government having failed to address this issue, the best is to go back to the drawing table,”
“You cannot have a situation whereby on one hand you have Bantustans, on the other hand you have traditional leaders,” he said.
On the infamous willing-buyer-willing seller policy the former official opposition party labelled it “unacceptable” in its current format.
“The willing-buyer-willing-seller is totally unacceptable, I know the government is doing it to apparently avoid anarchy,”
“But mind you, some of these people who own farms and are charging government a lot of money never bought those farms,” argued Nambinga.
According Nambinga even those individuals who bought the farms did so for “peanuts”.
It is against this background that Nambinga says the younger generation might not be tolerant enough to wait another 50 years before acquiring land in their country.
“We are sitting on a time-bomb, the land issue needs to be addressed,” warned Nambinga.
Furthermore South-West Africa National Union (Swanu) President Usutuaije Maamberua who claimed to be a “government in waiting” will start off with identify people who lost land.
“We will identify the people who lost land, they are known and those are the people who will be given priority in getting the land back,” said Maamberua.
According to Maamberua, the number one priority for his government would to first getting land back in the hands of the state through a variety of methods.
Maamberua said some of his methods of land expropriation of land are included in the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) under the pillar of Economic Transformation.
Among the methods pointed out by Maamberua is the “immediate expropriation of land” owned by absentee landlords.
“There are more than 300 farms that are owned by absentee landlords, and those farms will be expropriated immediately,”
“We are going to invest in capacitating the virgin land to make the land more hospitable so that our people can be settled there,” said Maamberua.
Under the same token, Swanu would implement “moral suasion” method to persuade those who have land to share with those that are landless.
“That is to do a countrywide, broad discussion with those who have excess land to sell the land at a predetermined price,” added Maamberua.
On the contrary, the moral suasion is not similar to the willing-buyer-willing seller that the current government employs according to Maamberua.
“They (government) are not persuading the land owners in Namibia to sell the land, they are actually sit there and wait whoever is interested,” noted Maamberua.
Maamberua said a Swanu-led government would carry out a nationwide campaign “sensitize” those citizens that have land to share, donate with those without it.
Another method that Swanu would employ would be the “incremental taxation method” to force those with unnecessary huge land to sell it off to government. The taxation method will be categorized alphabetically.
“If we have excess land in Zone A, you will taxed in such a way that any extra hectare of farming land will be uneconomical and you will be forced to sell it,” said Maamberua.
In essence, the taxation method basically means, the more productive land owned by an individual, the more tax he will pay to top the government.
According Maamberua instability might not only arise if land is not addressed promptly, but from corruption and hunger.
“Instability will be brought by many things, one is if land is addressed, if corruption is not addressed, hunger is not addressed, if poverty is not addressed, if lack of housing is not addressed and political intolerance is not addressed,” stressed Maamberua.
United People’s Movement (UPM) leader Jan Van Wyk is another one who is of the view that the land topic needs serious attention.
“The land issue comes a long way really and to solve it you need to involve all stake holders, you can’t solve the land issue without involving those lost it,” Van Wyk stated.
Moreover, Van Wyk further suggested that the willing-buyer-willing-seller land expropriation method was failing because of deliberate attempts by the government.
“The whole approach is wrong and this (commercial farmers not willing to sell) is not true, I know of commercial farmers who offered to sell their farms, but for some reason government refused to buy,” alleged van Wyk.
On potential threats to peace and stability that may arise from the land issue, van Wyk said no blood will be shed if government “listens” to the demands of the people.
United Democratic Front (UDF) leader Apius Auxab said “consultation” is key in addressing the land crisis.
“Land is a very sensitive issue therefore if we were the ruling government we would consult the church leaders, farmers unions, civil organisations and politicians in addressing it,” said Auxab.
Auxab termed the willing-buyer-willing-seller policy as “inadequate” to address the plights of Namibians which emanate from land.
“We don’t put enough effort to ensure that the willing-buyer-willing-seller succeed, there is reluctance from government, Namibia has the best policy but we just fail to implement it,” added Auxab.
With regard to possible instability that could arise as a result of poor land delivery and resettlement Auxab was quick to point out that not everyone needs land.
“Instability cannot happen if we do not instigate each other, we should not see land as a political issue but as a national issue,”
“Not everyone needs farming land, some people just need a small piece to live on,” concluded Auxab.
The UDF leader however acknowledged that the price for land was too “expensive” for the average Namibian to have access to.
Moreover the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) says it will allow Namibians to reclaim their ancestral land and create commercial farm units in communal areas.
Nudo’s Meundju Jahanika said if his party was in power, it would have “prioritised” Namibians that lost land.
“We have prioritised those who have lost land to allow them to reclaim what belonged to them,” stated Jahanika.
Instead of the willing-buyer-willing-seller approach, Nudo would go to areas such as the Zambezi, Kavango regions where Namibians never lost land and create commercial farm units.
“What we call commercial farms today used to be open land, so we would create commercial farms in those areas to create farms,”
“It will enable you to own land, cultivate it, keep your stock records because in communal farming you cannot manage farming properly,” said Jahanika.
Additionally Jahanika said if Nudo was in power, it would replace the willing-buyer-willing-seller policy but did not explicitly give an alternative one policy.
Jahanika said Namibia can also learn from other countries how they went about in dealing with land related matters.