…as alleged elitism, corruption and favouritism claim surface
Whether the list will open a can of worms as far as it relates to the alleged corrupt practitioners captured by the camaraderie in the Land Reform Ministry when it comes dishing out resettlement farms or uncover the coercive measures employed, the line ministry now more than ever will have to face the naked scrutiny as the public demand to know who the beneficiaries of resettlement farms since independence are.
Resettlement farms and land in general [for whatever use] has become one of the most priced and unfairly distributed commodities in the country. As such, it has only been in reach to those in the “right offices” family names or individuals who flaunt struggle credentials or proximity to political leaders.
Alleged corruption, favoritism and the unscrupulous manner in which distribution takes place has tied the policies in knots as far as the manner in which resettlement farms are managed. Voices across all corners of Namibia have joined in a chorus to contest this disbursement system. Many Namibians claim to have been placed on an unending waiting lists say it is time to audit the list.
In March this year, the ministry decided to announce its decision to give Vicki Erenstein ya Toivo the American-born widow of the late struggle icon Andima Toivo ya Toivo, a resettlement farm. Ya Toivo’s farm came at a time when the country continue to fight the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Erenstein ya Toivo was one of seven recipients of farms then, receiving 2376 Ha section A of Farm Joyce No. 198 in the Omaheke region.
Critics have blasted the widow of the struggle icon saying the well-off lawyer should not have benefited from the resettlement programme meant for previously disadvantaged Namibian farmers.
According to the resettlement criteria, in order to qualify for resettlement, an applicant must be a Namibian citizen; must be at least eighteen (18) years of age; must have no more than 150 Large Stock or 800 Small Stock; and applicant must not own any land, other than for residential purposes. It is not known how Erenstein ya Toivo was exempted on the last criteria.
The first step towards the attainment of a resettlement farm is registered at regional level. It is the 14 governors who do the first selection of applicants before sending recommendations to the line ministry.
In the midst of the public outcry as far as the merits on which Erenstein ya Toivo acquired land for the previously advantaged, another prominent name hits the list. This time it was MobiPay director Amos Shiyuka, who is responsible for the Dr Hage Geingob Cup.
The businessman who applied from the Ohangwena region will be the recipient of Portion 1 (Oklahoma) of the Farm Tara No.41 in the Omaheke region with 1950 hectares. On the same list of 13 beneficiaries is 43-year old Rudolf Nanuseb who is the Valuer General in the line ministry. He applied from Erongo region. Other recipients are Turma Lodges and Safaris, Passions Culinary and Hospitality Institute CC, Esegiel Nguvauva, all from Khomas region amongst others. The names of the owners of these establishments remain intentionally covered.
Last week, Ombudsman Namibia’s head John Walters wrote his second letter to the ministry of lands requesting for the list of beneficiaries to be availed to his office after Affirmative Repositioning activist Job Amupanda wrote to him request that he looks into the matter.
The Office of the Ombudsman of Namibia was set up to promote and protect human rights, fair and effective administration, combat misappropriation or misuse of public resources and protect the environment and natural resources of Namibia through the independent and impartial investigation and resolution of complaints and through raising public awareness.
Walters argued that he had written to the ministry last year requesting for the same list but was told that his letter was never received.
“We need to know how many people benefited and who they are. This is simply because some people feel discriminated by the process so this is why we need the list so we scrutinize,” he said.
He added that the growing concerns and questions on the merit of some beneficiaries need to be confirmed or denied saying this should not be taken as a name and shame exercise.
“We want to deeply look into the merits on which people got these farms. We need to see if the right targeted groups of people who are supposed to benefit are really the people on that list. The exercise should not be seen as a name and shame thing at all.”
“If we are to find out that the 2001 policy is no longer relevant in the distribution of these farms, then as the Office of the Ombudsman, we will make recommendations to the upcoming Land Conference slated for later this year,” Walters explained.
The Land Reforms Ministry, through its spokesperson Chrispin Mutongela confirmed receipt of the letter with gives them until 23 May to respond. While the ministry has been tightlipped about the whereabouts of the requested list, Mutongela highlighted that it will not be an issue availing the list to the party that requested it.
“We have the data and we will not have a problem availing it to the Ombudsman. The list is up to date with all the details,” said Mutongela.
Axed Land Reform Deputy Minister and now yet-to-be-registered Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi is somehow skeptical about the authenticity of the list, should the ministry avail such a list.
Swartbooi believes what Namibians will get will be a spurious list doctored to dress corrupt evidence. He adds that he knows about the existence of a resettlement list at a regional level. “They are now trying to put fake names on the list because the original owners are not supposed to benefit. If they say that they are ready to release the list, just know that the list is doctored,” said the LPM leader. Swartbooi also believes that releasing the list will lead to a national dialogue which is long overdue on matters of land redistribution and resettlement.
“We need to take an audit on resettlement to enhance transparency. We need to know who got resettled and where. When the list is released, we then have to compare notes in regards to what the list says and what the reality on the ground portrays. We know of farms which the State bought and these farms just disappeared, so we need to look into those too,” said Swartbooi.
Swartbooi further highlighted that the discretionary powers have lost its meaning and that parliament has surrendered its monitoring capacity of the executive. He adds that even the Ombudsman despite doing exceptional work is toothless as they are only reduced to writing recommendations.
The opinionated politician believes that this has subsequently given powers to a select few in the allocation of the natural resources without question.
“The government has messed up severely when it comes to the land issue and they have no idea how to deal with this problem.”
Sharing the same sentiments is activist and former SPYL leader Amupanda who blatantly highlighted that the corruption in the process is no secret. “We know there is corruption so we just need scientific evidence. The ministry must do the right thing and release the list. It will be the beginning of a general discourse on the matter and other corrupt activities in this country,” shared Amupanda.