Wednesday 12 May 2021
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Resolutions of the Second Land Conference must be Practical People centred

The Second Land Conference is to take place in Windhoek from October1-5, 2018. The Conference shall review the progress made or otherwise toward addressing the critical issue of land reform in post-independence Namibia. It is expected that participants with different concerns and expectation shall participate. Whoever is tasked to manage the deliberations should have patience and a cool head to ensure that participants shall air their views in an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance.
Land is a heritage. It is a means of livelihood. It provides a space to construct a shelter. Land is thus a basic resource for survival. In pre-colonial times traditional rulers controlled the use of land. Land was a commonage. All members of a traditional community had a right to the use of land.
Traditional communities from different cultural background shared the common resources of the land. In the present day Tsumeb area different cultural communities mined copper and made ornaments from the metal. In Northern Namibia iron smiths annually went to the area of Cassinga in present day Southern Angola.
The smiths forged hoes, axes, spears, traditional knives, arrow heads and similar items. Cassinga was not under the jurisdiction of any Omuwambo traditional ruler. All African communities shared with each other. In Northern Namibia cattle headers crossed boundaries of commonages in search of grazing pastures. The Aandonga shared the resources Okashana and Etotha with the Hai//om community. Through long distance trade Aawambo traded with the communities in Central Namibia and Southern Angola. Conflicts based on resource use were manageable.
However, around the 1860s migrants from the Cape Colony introduced the horse and the gun. Men on horse backs armed with guns raided other communities and confiscated cattle and other means of livelihoods. This provoked inter-communal conflicts. In my area there is saying “… I am following the spores of the hoof of my grand- parents”. This is in reference to the cattle raids conducted by Jonker Afrikaner in the area around 1865. The saying is implying that the person intends to go to Central or Southern Namibia.
Settler colonialism found roots in Namibia for the purpose of confiscating land from indigenous communities. When the traditional communities resisted through anti-colonial wars they were massacred and expelled from the territory. Today the descendants of these communities are demanding, rightly so, the return of their commonage.
For the purpose of divide and rule colonialists designated areas in the Territory as Ovamboland, Hereroland, Namaland, Damaraland and so on. People from these cultural groups derived their livelihoods from these areas generally on shared basis. Since time immemorial all cultural communities recognised that land was a common heritage of all traditional communities in southern Africa.
Land as a basis of livelihood requires a just, fair and transparent solution. At basic level discussions about land reform should focus on the needs of individuals, households and communities.
There is therefore no one size fits all. The Conference must address a variety of needs. The San communities regard land as open space where they derive their livelihoods. Solution to their land need should be found in community led production in which the communities are provided land as an open space where they can develop conservancies and similar economic activities on shared basis. This will require community members to cooperate and accept joint responsibility in managing a shared resource.
Traditional pastoralists will require large tracks of land to graze and rear their animals. There are possible solutions to their land hunger. Their current communal reserves could be expanded to provide more space for their animals. Or they should be assisted at favourable terms to acquire commercial land. There are some area which are infected by poisonous plants. Could these areas be developed and be made available to pastoral farmers!
There are also communities whose basis of economy are small stock. They need land and better markets to improve their livelihoods. Probably one solution is to expand their current commonages.
The traditional communities engaged in mix farming have been affected by population explosion. They traditionally engaged in both agronomic farming and cattle rearing. With population explosion the land cannot sustain them. One solution to their plight is to compliment their farming activities with other means of survival.
For example, Government could provide incentives for economic investments in these commonages to provide employment. Government may help to develop Growth Points in every constituency and encourage business people to establish businesses in such Growth Points. In addition, development of markets for products found in these commonages may help improve the economic prospects of members these communities.
The commercial agricultural economy is critical to the health of the whole Namibian economy. Whatever measures are taken they should not destroy the commercial agriculture.
This is not to say that commercial agriculture should not be reformed. It must be made inclusive. Taxation on excessive land should be implemented.
Absentee land barons must be given notice that unless they return to Namibia and put their land to good use their land will be expropriated in public interest. They will only be compensated on improvement on land. Multiple farm ownership requires also to be addresses.
The hated willing seller willing buyer arrangement is a necessary evil. Farm prices are excessively inflated by land owners and Government resources are limited. Perhaps the best way to deal with this necessary evil is to Establish A commission on Land Valuation to curb the over pricing of land. International expertise could be sought to build up local capacity.
The Resettlement and Affirmative Action Loan Schemes should be overhauled to become more transparent and effective.
The clamour for ancestral land is based on the fact that these schemes have not been implemented in transparent manner. Farmers resettled should be assisted by Extension Services of the Ministry of Agriculture.  Resettled farmers should contribute to agricultural growth.
Urban land needs attention. I am not in favour of large urbanisation, though inevitable under the current circumstances of excruciating rural poverty.
When demand of land in urban areas exceed supply, prices will sky rocket. Take development to rural areas and attract people to go back once opportunities are created there.
The land issue cannot be solved with a magic wand.
The nation should cultivate mutual understanding and come up with practical people centred resolutions on land reform which are time bound.

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