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Friday 18 January 2019
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Winter is Coming: The Land Question and Being

There are many things which one can choose to be neutral about but not the land issue in Namibia. In as much as many think of it as a mere economic issue, it is carries greater non-material value.
When colonialists came and dispossessed early Namibians of their land, the issue didn’t only affect them economically. This change would later become the basis of social disintegration that altered cultural and family structures of many.
Land was and has always been to African people a place of generating values, establish social institutions and the extension of the land gave a sense of collective identity. When they were forced off their lands, it created generational distabilisation and social breakdowns.
The new labour systems and economic structures did not come to aid the situation but worsened it. Within a century, Namibians became economic and political slaves. They were then force to turn to the same oppressor to provide them with jobs in order to sustain themselves in this new economic and political structure. Since then generations of black people became farm labourers, working to sustain the living standards of the white masters. This set a proper structure in place for what then became known as the forced contract labour system.
The occupation, robbing and stealing of land was the primary entry point of the desecration of the humanity of black people. It’s a historical occurrence that affected people’s entire way of life. Therefore, we cannot think that the whole land question is but a minor one – it’s a question that touches at the being of black communities.
This having being the primary entry point of social injustice, it must be the primary starting point to correct the wrongs of history.
Colonialisation which took away the land of the indigenous people hindered the people’s sense of generating national self-consciousness. It interrupted their natural processes of developing their capabilities to be self-sustainable and construct their own civilisation on their own terms. It robbed the people of their sense of self-worth as they had to go through life oppressed and controlled.
All these began with the taking away of land. And these are things you cannot compensate with money but through the awakening of a sense of human decency and restore their land.
We now can see that the issue of land is not a mere economic question, it’s primarily a human identity issue and a quest for justice. It’s not a quest for vengeance, if that were the case, it would have happened right at independence; rather it’s a call to restitution.
For the things lost which money cannot buy back, the restitution of land can be a good starting point to allow a new social-reconstruction.
Like many others I’ve been guilty of the belief that black people must first be trained before they are given land, else they won’t utilise it.
Were the first colonialists all trained farmers, are all the current politicians who own land trained farmers, and are all the resettled persons trained farmers? It’s a weak excuse to use just to delay and deny the land redistribution process.
The minister of land recently made a public statement that land wasn’t for poor people. Forgetting that those who fought for the land were not rich people, they were all poor, in every sense of that word.
The liberation struggle which had land on its agenda was not waged by wealthy and middle class people. And many of the rich people today were once upon a time very poor.
Thus, the poor with sufficient assistance and appropriation of resources can be lifted out of their poverty. Land in this case caters for entire families and not just the individual; it gives a collective sense of ownership and bargaining power.
For all the ruin that colonialism has caused to black communities and devastated their social structures, I personally see the restoring of land as a very small price to pay. In fact, it’s not even a payment; it’s the right thing to do.
Black people so far have proven that they have no intention of grabbing land by force; 28 year of peacefully living is evidence. It’s time for the descendants of the former colonizers to bring their part to the table.
There are many people with reasonable sizes of farm land but there are those with country sizes of land, it’s the latter group I’m referring to. Some have more than one farm; this should literally become legally prohibited.
To reverse the effects of colonialism and the social damage it has caused, we cannot surrender to mere diplomacy.
Colonialism was a radical ideology and its effects can only be countered with similar radical actions. There’s nothing that can be done to restore the non-economic loses of black communities, however, giving back land could be a good start.
I can only hope that this year’s land conference will look at practical ways and that we can settle our land question on our own terms as a country. Without threats of violence towards our fellow white Namibians or seeking to take away their hard labour, simply because they are white.
We should not repeat the wrongs of colonialism which thrived on force but we cannot also not tolerate the nurturing of its effects.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are my personal opinions and do not reflect those of IUM or its associates.




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