A host of traditional authorities, political parties, land movements and civil society organisations have announced that they are boycotting the much-awaited National Land Conference that begins next week, in protest at the Swapo-led government’s “lack of consultation and omitting land movements from attending the indaba.”
Days before the Monday meeting the government softened its position slightly, after it extended invitations to the Landless People’s Movement and Affirmative Repositioning movement.
Both declined the invitations this week.
But despite the boycott from pressure groups, government is adamant that the conference will go ahead as planned.
As pressure grew for fundamental change in Namibia’s land reform, land was increasingly used as a political tool by the government, but within the framework of a land-starved country.
PDM shies away
The official opposition party, Popular Democratic Movement yesterday announced that it will not be part of the land conference.
PDM president McHenry Venaani said the refusal to release the list of resettlement beneficiaries shrouded in secrecy creates unwarranted suspicions and undermines the fundamental ethos of transparency and accountability, which the President, repeatedly emphasises as key values of his administration.
“It further deprives participants the right of informed consent, to have a constructive, and meaningful contribution to the debate lacking in the facts on that list. It further erodes confidence, and trust in government engagements or operations which as the Official Opposition are mandated to provide the required checks and balances! We as the Official Opposition, find it extremely difficult to render our co-operation to such an activity,” Venaani said.
He said the deliberate omission of respected traditional leaders not currently recognised by the current government, but who were participants in the first 1991 National Land Conference from communities who are direct victims of ancestral lands dispossession due to Imperial German and South African ancestral lands seizures and dispossession is another bone of contention.
“The leaked documents with predetermined resolutions and outcome of the Conference dissipate any chance for democratic fruitful contributions to the resolution of the Land Question,” Venaani said.
He also took issued with the time limits allocated to participants to present their contributions to this most fundamental question of our democracy and governance is constipating of our intellectual dispositions to the Land Conference.
Government’s unilateral approach to the organisation of the entire Land Conference, Venaani said, again constraints substantive participation rendering our presence as mere rubber stamp legitimising an ill-conceived Conference.
Venaani attacked government saying “the nonchalant attitude of government and its Ministers to invite people as they please initially omitted the Baster Traditional leadership is an insult which the Official Opposition didn’t take kindly.
“Therefore, I announce under the power vested in me as the President of the movement and empowered by its constitution under article 188.8.131.52, that the Popular Democratic Movement shall not be party to a conference of whose outcome is pre-determined and now we must be used to legitimize outcomes that are pre-determined,” he said.
The Affirmative Repositioning has also rejected a late invitation to the much- anticipated second land indaba slated for next week, saying they will not be used to legitimize a ‘predetermined gimmick.
“We have come to a conclusion that we will not be participating in the land conference, in its current format and posture, Historical Tokenism and Abuse, Afterthought and legitimacy seeking 11th Hour Invitation, Clear Signs of a Choreographed, predetermined Gimmick, Sidelining Urban Land, 15 Minutes for 1.5 Million People suffering from Urban Land challenges, Neoliberal, Capitalist and anti-radical – anti-leftist Posture of the conference,” said Job Amupanda at the presser yesterday.
The Affirmative Repositioning, with was initially snubbed from the invitation list received an invite to the conference at the eleventh hour and was accorded 22 hours to accept and field three representatives that would be allocated 15 minutes to present their stance on land.
The group believes the invite is an attempt by the organizers of the event to “gain moral high grounds and policy legitimacy through manipulative tactics while not concerned with doing nothing about the suffering of our people.”
On numerous accounts, the AR has met government to dialogue on issues pertaining land, of which the group says did not know that all dialogues were architected to score political points for the president at international platform whereas resolutions passed during these meeting were never put into consideration for implementations.
“Whenever he (President Hage Geingob) speaks about the land question, he speaks of our meeting with him, abusing us saying that we met and resolved the land question through ‘dialogue’. While he repeatedly makes these comments to the international community, the agreed resolutions remain unimplemented. Rent Control, agreed with him, remains unimplemented despite the existing law. Estate Agents Tariffs, agreed with him, remains unresolved four years later. The masses of our people in rural Namibia continue to lose their Mahangu fields to business elites despite the commitments he has made four years ago.”
“The land conference, like the 2015 dialogue is evidently a platform after which he will obtain soundbites. Those that take part will be abused and used when Geingob takes international platforms where he will self-glorify and project himself as a ‘listening’ and ‘consultative’ leader.”
AR said they were always aware that the High Level Committee of the conference did not want them present at the land conference citing reasons that the committee feared that they would “liberate the delegates from the regime command structure and lead the conference ideologically causing the conference to adopt a radical posture.”
Civil society saddened, conference to be postponed till 2020
Nangof’s Chairperson Sandy Tjarondo also expressed dismay by saying “we are saddened but not surprised by the turn of events in the planning of the Second Land Conference in Namibia which in our view demonstrate the deteriorating levels of accountability standards in our government and deplorable conditions of principles of governance.”
The outspoken Tjaronda said the planning of what he describes as a sham, the Conference was built on a “defective foundation premise on distortion of history, infliction of fear and selective morality”.
“The descendants of these communities[land dispossessed] who were killed, raped and forcefully dispossessed, and displaced of their land stand here today to face a momentous date with destiny. They either choose to join an orchestrated exercise concocted to drive them deeper into poverty and destitution with no future for their children and grandchildren or opt out of this flawed process. When anarchy gets loose, the centre cannot hold. Many feel it will be naïve to join in perpetuating anarchy directed at yourself and generations to come,” he said.
Tjaronda said ancestral land claims are not optional, but an integral part of land reform.
“Anyone who does not factor ancestral land in their land reform program is either an enemy of progress or an enemy of the affected communities. The land belongs to the people but ancestral land belongs to specific affected communities who are indelibly recorded in history.
These communities are yearning for restorative justice now and the government must rise quick to realize that this cannot be wished away as injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In what can only be described as a stinging attack on the Head of State, Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority Vekuii Rukoro warned ‘that you days are counted.
When a President starts to see one thing in Eenhana and sings another song when he is here and another song in New York, you must know he is totally ‘deurmekaar’. Now he is complaining about being excluded by the UN in New York, but he is practising exclusionism here at home against his own people.” It is expected that the affected communities will demonstrate at the opening ceremony on Monday to express their disgust.
Rukoro unequivocally called for the conditional postponement of the conference until May 2020.