Wednesday 12 May 2021
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A land conference, stillborn

The much-awaited land conference has become a bone of contention and cause for division between government and key land stakeholders.
This week several stakeholders such as traditional authorities, political parties, faith based organisation and the civil society movement made it clear that they will not be attending the meeting that is due to start on Monday.  All of these groups are united in their call for the postponement of the indaba and have offered counter positions to contribute to Namibia’s agenda to find a long-lasting solution to the land question.
Government alone will not craft a solution because it has shown over the years that tackling the land issue is an uphill battle.
The extent to which indigenous people were dispossessed of their land by whites in Namibia under colonial rule cannot be overemphasized.
Since the advent of democracy in 1990, government has spent billions to buy land from white farmers in order to redistribute it to previously disadvantaged Namibians.
The recently released land audit shows that previously advantaged farmers own 27.9 million hectares (70%) of commercial land while the previously disadvantaged community owns the remaining percentage.
Namibia was third in terms of the highest percentage of private land ownership (44%) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2010. The highest percentage private land ownership was in Mauritius (80%) followed by South Africa at 72%.
Is this really the restorative justice we speak about?
The redistribution of land can contribute to the transformation of the economy and the reduction of poverty, both rural and urban. However there is need for political will and deliberate policy intervention to ensure that land is not left in the hands of a few.
Land is one of the tools that government can use to fight inequality because it is the primary means of production. Our people need land to work on in order to stop depending on government safety nets.
The over-reliance on government services is largely due to the fact that Namibians do not have the means and resources to fend for themselves. Communal farmers have shown that our people can fend for themselves provided that the conditions are sound.
Inequality when it comes to land redistribution has reached alarming proportions.
The issue of land ownership in Namibia has been on our minds for long, our people living on these commercial farms have no place to bury their loved ones while being surrounded by luxury farm houses and lodges.
As for the people who want to ignore the ancestral land claims, we can liken them to a doctor who does not cure the disease of a patient because he is too fixated with the symptoms or who feel since he is not responsible for the disease, he shouldn’t be left to deal with the diagnosis or treatment.
Indeed, the great African-American scholar Dr. Hendrik Clarke was spot on when he said: “History is a clock that tells people their historical time of the day. It is a compass that people use to locate themselves on the map of human geography. A people’s history tells them where they have been, where they are now…more importantly, where they must still go.”
Like former President Hifikepunye Pohamba warned in 2012, the unresolved land question is a ticking time bomb, which if not addressed, will prompt a revolution.
The colonisers who took land from Africans and their descendants should come to the negotiation table before it’s too late.
The land question has gone unanswered for too long now. In fact, the land question is in actual fact not a land question but rather a symbol of inequality and greed.
Most if not all Namibians feel, rightfully so, strong about the injustice meted out against them and their ancestors by the white settlers decades ago, and the fact that visible change is yet to be achieved makes it worse.
Regardless of how the land conference turns out next week, we must continue advocating for equitable and fair land distribution in Namibia.

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