Monday 12 April 2021
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Leadership and land: lessons from Omaruru

Let me pick up on the four (4) farms sold/leased to the Russian billionaire. This is but one interesting story and I want to use it to illustrate the degree of leadership failure of our current government.
It is true that failure to learn from history only leads to repeating old mistakes. How did the farmlands around Omaruru (first Namibian town) become German owned?
It was not through force but willing selling of land by the Herero chiefs. Initially, settlers were only allowed to buy land on the northern part of the river.
However, after the death of Zeraua, Tjiseseta became greedy and indiscriminately sold the land to the German settlers. In less than a hundred years the Hereros and Damaras in that part of the country became farm labourers and confined to unfruitful portions of land, as most of it was sold off.
This untold story of Omaruru continue to haunt black men and women in that part of the country. I grew up there and till today, I do not know of a Black person born in Omaruru who owns a commercial farm in that area. Just little close to 150 years, the people of Omaruru became the dispossessed, landless people because their leaders put money as priority.
Today even the generations of the Damara and Herero chiefs don’t own any commercial land. This untold story continues to unfold itself in various ways across the country.
For all intends and purposes, Zeraua and Tjiseseta should never have sold land to the German traders. One would think that these leaders should be excused for their lack of education.
Then we discover that it has nothing to do with one’s level of education, because similar deals have been happening under the leadership of well-educated politicians. What does this piece of history tell us? What can we learn about leadership?
I’d like to be clear that my view of land is not to paint a utopian vision of wealth and overnight economic emancipation through land ownership. I’m simply arguing for a question of socio-economic justice for Namibians.
That said, it is poor leadership to place natural resources such as land in the hands of foreign nationals. Even if they were to be investors. For a country that comes from a history of two exploitative systems, we should be the first to have better measures in place to avoid similar happenings.
But from the look of it, we continue to place money ahead of the national interest. Land has been sold to various non-Namibians while nationals struggle to secure ordinary housing land.
Yet, the same government would have us believe that it’s doing everything in its power to right the wrongs of history which made Black Namibians landless.
Ordinary people or the nation at large can forget about benefiting from the resources of this country.
Without an official ideology that can clearly incorporate our collective political, social, and cultural experiences into a developmental strategy, this leadership will continue the onslaught against its own.
In the end, decisions made will continue to serve the interests of the ruling class while in the meantime disadvantaging the masses.
When money becomes the focus, the people and their voices no longer count. It explains why the Russian deal was defended from the highest office of this country, the presidency.
But this political oratory that claims national interest will not be here 40-50 years from here, but the landless Namibian people will be.
This administration like that of Zeraua and Tjiseseta will go down in history as having traded its children’s resources for peanuts, while enriching themselves in the process. I’m only referring to the land leased-sold to the Russian billionaire as an example of many other activities which government has carried out over the years, to disadvantage its own people.
These kinds of practices in themselves are betrayals of all the efforts of the liberation struggle for which many Namibians sacrificed their lives. We probably forgot that the liberation struggle wasn’t just political but to give economic power to the Namibians.
If the land question isn’t handled to benefit Namibians to own commercial and housing land, government has failed.
What we need to see are deliberate actions that will ensure that more Namibians are accorded to obtain land. Beyond the recently ended national land conference, we need a national referendum that will seek to place the resources of the land back in the hands of the people.
The land issue is deeply a leadership issue, not a mere economic one. The reason we voted for this government, is because we trusted that it was going to rectify these imbalances.
We’ve entrusted the current government to wisely manage the state resources to benefit the citizens, not disempower us for the benefit of a selected few.
Can we trust that the Namibian government can change this land situation? Or is it deep into profiteering and repeating a nationwide Omaruru-effect?
We trusted the current government at independence, that it was going to do the right thing.
This expectation is long overdue. We’ve witnessed an increase in deterioration of things, often government sponsored.
If government can’t fix this land issue; it should give the public a credible reason as to why it should continue to govern this nation?

Disclaimer: Basilius Kasera is Dean of Students at IUM, however, the views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect that of his employer or associates.

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