LAND REFORMS LIKELY TO TAKE NEW TURN AFTER CONFERENCE (Exclusive)

NAMIBIA: LAND/NBC/17/10/18 SABANews 1

WINDHOEK – The government of NAMIBIA has finally released the full list of people who have benefitted from the national land reforms since independence in MARCH 1990.

Communal Land Development Program at Amarika village (Pic. NBC News)

The Ministry of Land Reform document says out of a population of TWO-POINT-ONE-MILLION, only FIVE-THOUSAND-731 people benefited from the National Resettlement Program schemes carried out on 494 farms.

NBC News quotes Ombudsman JOHN WALTERS as saying his Office has received the list, as Minister UTONI NUJOMA promised at the recent SECOND National Land Conference, to which leading groups like the NAMIBIAN AGRICULTURAL UNION also contributed.

Roelie Venter, Namibian Agricultural Union Executive Manager (Pic. NBC News)

The broadcaster says Ombudsman WALTERS is scheduled to go through the record before making it available on the official website.

It says the latest development follows continuous calls before, during, and after the SECOND National Land Conference for the government to reveal names of people who have benefitted from the land reforms so far.

Ombudsman WALTERS has described the Conference as a success, saying despite most of the views from delegates being of a general nature, discussions were inclusive and created a window for everyone to speak.

Like other nations such as TANZANIA, ZAMBIA, ANGOLA, MOZAMBIQUE, and ZIMBABWE, NAMIBIA was under colonial rule for more than a century – during which thousands of its people were killed as they fought for freedom.

Yet, some 134 years after the seizure of residential and farmlands from black communities by foreign settlers, and 28 years after independence, the SADC country still has to solve the major grievance of the liberation struggle – the land.

With the conclusion of the SECOND National Land Conference and the release of the full list of the resettlement program beneficiaries, questions rise about how effective will be the new approaches (if any) to the matter.

Nevertheless, observers can benefit from TWO academics who may have managed to capture the major problems facing the authorities and the rest of the nation.

KAZEMBIRE ZEMBURUKA, a communications practitioner and lecturer in broadcast media, as well as YARUKEEKURO NDOROKAZE, a lawyer with the High Court and broadcaster, shared their views in the media TWO months ago.

Their article in THE PATRIOT newspaper says the so-called FIRST Land Conference of JUNE to JULY 1991 took place about 16 months into independence, with national reconciliation seemingly being the buzzword.

It says while the Conference accepted there was injustice regarding land acquisition and resolved practical moves be made, no specific action was agreed on – which means it is still work in progress.

Additionally, ancestral land claims are complicated issues due to overlapping boundaries of the different communities, which make restitution impossible: and the FIRST Conference failed to find a lasting solution.

Foreign ownership is a different matter because the Conference agreed foreigners should only get access to use and develop the land for investment purposes: but foreigners own large tracts of farmland, which means the resolution was not complied with.

As for abandoned and underutilised commercial land, the Conference resolved to reallocate and productively use it: but the government has failed to do so or to help communities trying to take action.

The academics say virgin land in the OTJOZONDJUPA, OMAHEKE, and KAVANGO WEST regions, as well as other pockets elsewhere, have always been seen as the answer to overgrazing in communal areas, but there seems to be little appetite to develop the areas.

They say the authorities are even ignoring the drilling of boreholes and finding a permanent solution to the gifblaar, a perennial shrub that is deadly poisonous to stock, or at least provide practical ways to co-habitat with the plant.

Absentee landlords also remain untouched despite the Conference resolution to expropriate their land, after the expropriation attempts stopped following a High Court ruling in the matter between GUNTER KESSL and the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement.

Nonetheless, the High Court provided guidelines on lawful expropriation and no subsequent attempts were made: and, given the nationalities involved and the political sway of their countries on domestic policy, the intervention may never see the light of day.

KAZEMBIRE ZEMBURUKA and YARUKEEKURO NDOROKAZE say the Conference agreed on banning occupation of large pieces of land and multiple ownership of farms.

They say no limit was set on the size of a farm per person, yet it would have been easier to limit the number of properties per person if there had been maximum farm sizes, and as long as such a position had the support of the necessary legal framework.

The 1991 Land Conference introduced land tax for commercial farmland and there might have been implementation challenges on the right level of taxation and the grace period, but the government deserves maximum points on the resolution.

The TWO academics also touch on other issues like Technical Committee on Commercial Farmland, Land Tenure, Farm Workers, Assistance to Commercial Farmers, and the Future Role of the Communal Areas.

Given the token successes of plans under the resolutions from the FRIST Land Conference, there are calls for the authorities in NAMIBIA to take seriously the declarations from the SECOND National Land Conference to avoid continued civil unrest./Sabanews/cam

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