Former Land Reform Deputy Minister Bernadus Swartbooi has once again weighed in on the ancestral land debate, saying he is shocked that government is asking activists to provide evidence for ancestral land claims-something it [Govt] ought to know. Swartbooi hit out at government’s approach in addressing the land question saying it is both politically dangerous and intellectually backwards that individuals are being asked to prepare arguments and provide evidence for ancestral land claims 27 years after Independence. Speaking to this publication this week, Swartbooi said it was ‘sad’ that groups and individuals are being requested to prepare debates and arguments to substantiate claims of ancestral land ahead of the highly anticipated land conference. “I find it [groups being requested to provide evidence for ancestral land claims] very shockingly inept and intellectually backward and morally bankrupt and politically dangerous for people at this stage of our history to pretend as if the land dispassion question is a brand new question. “It is so sad that, in 2017 people (government) are asking groups like the Landless People’s Movement or any other group to prepare debates, to provide evidence, to articulate the historic issues of land dispossession at this stage of our Independence as if there was not a particular struggle waged for the return of that land and as if there were no lives lost for that land,” lamented Swartbooi. As a result, Swartbooi said LPM was not functioning in the “realm” of government’s request of providing evidence and arguments for ancestral land claims. He further said: “You can’t have people asking others to prepare things (evidence) as if those individuals that are in positions of authority are aliens that are not from this country. How does someone ask others to explain land dispossession? “You must really be out of your mental space to ask that. Even my younger children know about land dispossession and people in positions of authority ask others to prepare things on land as if it is a new thing,” charged Swartbooi. Furthermore, Swartbooi said LPM was not here to fill “intellectual” gaps by educating individuals that are higher up in the government hierarchy who pretend not to know about “land dispossession”. “You will find us (LPM) doing what we have to do in the context that we have defined for ourselves, within the context that promotes peace and stability and the unity of this country, with historic truth as the important central pillar upon which we are seeking the return of land.
“We are not going to be dictated by others who plead ignorance to the land questions. We can’t educate politicians that claim to have been in the struggle on the question of land. That is not our mandate, we never seek to fill intellectual gaps or knowledge gaps in the minds of politicians” he said. According to Swartbooi, LPM seeks to return land that was stolen and forcefully German and South African imperialist forces. “Our mandate is to get the land back that was lost and asking the state to do what is right and just in ensuring the return of that land on the basis of that the struggle for freedom and independence,” added Swartbooi. Swartbooi further went on to charge that some high ranking government officials have already “dismissed” the claims of ancestral, even before the envisaged land conference later this year. “Some of those characters themselves have already dismissed the claims on ancestral land. So we know that in terms of their position what they would like to achieve, which is: There is no ancestral land claims at all. But we will fight tooth and nail. “And therefore, those that have already dismissed [ancestral land claims] are basically the new architects of the new type of apartheid that the South African white and colonial German regime had,” he charged. Additionally, Swartbooi said: “They are the new architects of apartheid and ethic discrimination and ethnic exclusion and they do that on the basis of the so called “peace and stability”. But they know that they are lying. They think because they have positions of authoririty there are acceptable to the people,” “Let them continue with their lies, we will continue with our truth. Let them continue with their rhetoric, we will continue with truth. Let them continue with their insults, we will continue with our truth,” vented Swartbooi. Geingob on ancestral land On ancestral land claims, President Hage Geingob who chaired Namibia’s first ever Land Conference in 1991 has always questioned those who claim to have lost land who major cities such as Windhoek would be given to if government was to give back land to its original owners. Speaking at an event earlier this year, Geingob remarked: “Windhoek, whom do you give it to, do you pull down these buildings and give ancestral land?” Responding to his critics at the time, Geingob said the issue of ancestral land discussed for five days before reaching a “compromise” contrary to rife allegations that it was never discussed at the Land Conference in 1991. “Don’t say we didn’t discuss the ancestral land, it’s not true, it took us days to decide the question of ancestral land,” Geingob noted. According to the President, it was surprises him that those who claim ownership to ancestral land do not mention the “San people” who are believed the first inhabitants of Namibians. To this end, Geingob challenged individuals and groups like the LPM to provide evidence and arguments to support their claims of ancestral. The debates will be will tabled for discussion at September’s Land Conference, which will also be chaired by Geingob.
Government failures Swartbooi says government has failed to adequately solve the land question and is accusing some individuals in higher government positions of hiding behind the veil of peace and stability. “And when they had to listen to those that are crying for land, they have chosen to insult, harass, humiliate and to completely reduce or attempt to reduce the land question to a political party spectrum, whereas it is not a question of one political party. But an issue that is rather of national concern particularly for those that lost land” said Swartbooi. Additionally, Swartbooi accused individuals that occupy positions of leaders in the Namibian of doing everything possible including the censoring of state broadcaster NBC in order to silence the Landless People’s Movement. “They can try to intimidate and harass, they can try to censor NBC form broadcasting our things, they can try to pay people N$100 not to attend meetings of information, and they can try to bus-in people to add numbers at stadiums. “They can even try to treat LPM as a political movement, which it is not,” Swartbooi charged. In addition, Swartbooi said he will remain “bold, stubborn and clear” in addressing the land issue despite losing his position towards the end of last when year. “My posture in terms of the return of ancestral land posture in, my temperament in being stubborn, outspoken, direct on the issue of land, that will not change not matter what,” “Because we are not in the business like other politicians who because they have now reached fully-ballooned bank accounts are conveniently destroying the legacy of Witbooi, Maharero, Tjamuaha, Marenga and Kutako. “We are not in the business of destroying the heroic legacies of those that fought without having riches in the banks,” added Swartbooi. Swartbooi vs Geingob Furthermore, a source who preferred anonymity said Swartbooi and Geingob have a “well-documented bitter-sweet” relationship. To back this claim, the source said the two had not been speaking to each other for two years before the former //Karas Governor was appointed a deputy minister in 2015. The relationship between Swartbooi and the President reached its lowest point when the two allegedly had a “fallout” at the 2012 Swapo Party elective congress when they exchanged “insults” over a telephonic conversation. Swartbooi backed Geingob for the Swapo vice presidency position that year. Despite the “rift”, Geingob went on to appoint Swartbooi as deputy minister of land reform in 2015. On the contrary however, Swartbooi “knew” that the appointment was “a ploy by Geingob to eventually humiliate and destroy him (Swartbooi) politically by firing him in an embarrassing fashion”. Consequently, it was not “surprising” when Swartbooi was shown the door by Geingob for refusing to apologise to his then superior Utoni Nujoma for comments he made against the latter, the source added.