Tuesday 18 May 2021
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The land, the people and their dignity

Land resettlement is an important political and economic topic in Namibia under land reform program. It has raised so much debate among ordinary people who are still landless since this program was launched by the government in 1995.
Namibia has about 4000 commercial farms. Almost 1000 of them have been obtained by previously disadvantaged people since independence by means of private transaction, resettlement program and government facilitated loans through Agribank with minimum interest. Farms obtained by government for resettlement purposes are usually split into several sections and dozens of families are being resettled on what had previously been one farm.
Namibia exist today as a multi-ethnic and multilingual society. Land reform program attempts to correct the imbalance in the access to land emanating from dispossession by European settlers in the 19th century with the coming of Germany colonists and traders. My main concern here is the resettlement part of land reform program. Is the government of Namibia concerned about people who are illegally settled in various areas of Windhoek, the Capital city (particularly areas of Katutura high density suburb)? We see people raising shacks also known as “Kambashu” anywhere for the sake of accommodation. It is important to note that habitat is a human right.  It is shelter that shields from sun, rain, wind. What is the government under the resettlement programme doing about this?

In April this year, residents in parts of Otjomuise and Havana- Katutura whose houses were demolished by City of Windhoek police- they had erected shacks illegally on municipal land for more than 3 years. However, it is also unlawful for City police to demolish or evict illegal settlers without a court order. The new constitutional dispensation focus strongly on protecting the rights of the vulnerable which is why evictions  without a court order or without a court considering all sides of dispute is now considered unconstitutional. But the question still stand as to whether the government is doing something in line with the national strategic framework on land resettlement program? More people are migrating from rural areas to live permanently in urban areas (just to experience the town life), in some cases for employment reasons. This long trend long since a reality in cities such as Nairobi, Kinshasa, Dar es Salaam, Luanda, Mombasa and now posing an ever increasing challenge to Windhoek. It should be noted that, efforts to upgrade informal settlements and provide formal low-cost housing or other measures do not seem to be meeting people’s expectations in terms of quick results.

When illegal settlements are raised on state land, the state is supposed to tolerate people’s needs and at least be able to provide suitable alternatives, come down to this: accommodation is not a want, it is a need. Therefore, the government under land resettlement program bear ultimate responsibility for providing shelter to people in need and finding permanent solutions to the housing problem generally. Thus the only way land resettlement programme can make sense and become a panacea to squatting.

A clear evidence can be drawn from a group called Landless People’s Movement (LPM). From my point of view, I sense that these people are not satisfied with the way land is being distributed neither a policy on national resettlement (of 2001). What does it imply to have a movement like LPM in protest to the government, demanding their ancestral land back?

The government has less than 8 years to achieve the 2025 goal of making sure that all landless people get the land. Calculating from 1995 to date and the remaining 7 years, would it be correct to say that the program is a failure? However, it should be noted that the government may face challenges among others- inadequate financial standing owing from little revenue it gets form this small population. This can actually slow down development of land that should be allocated to people in need.

Itai Zviyita is a graduate of BA in Media Studies with Zimbabwe Open University.

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