And so it begins

Grab your political popcorn and prepare to watch the show. The Landless Peoples Movement (LPM) Leader Bernadus Swartbooi, ever the lightning rod for populist politics, now says that people who decide that they are too poor to buy land should take up residence on unoccupied state land. The Council led by Amupanda whose rise to fame began with just such an action must show his mettle.

He must be definitive and speak from strength. He should step back, smile and put Swartbooi in charge of the entire effort. Let the people know about the Swartbooi Land Grabbing Program. Let the rules of the game adjust. Anyone making wild, bold pronouncements will be tasked to come up with the plan for implementation. They should be personally held responsible for their pronouncement’s success or failure.

Swartbooi, who now occupies the seat as the erstwhile political leader of “The South,” believes he has more leverage than anyone else in the opposition. He is wrong, but it will take some time for him to realize it. In the meantime, the new Mayor and Windhoek City Council must act decisively on the first of his many challenges to their coalition.

Our advice for the newbie mayor is to agree with Swartbooi. Get off the hot seat and put the LPM on it. He has thrown down a gauntlet – pick it up and hand it back to him. Land grabbing is his idea; let him sink or swim with it. Put him in charge of managing the listing of how much state land is unoccupied. His party is on the council whether he participated in the coalition or not. Throw his idea right back at him.

It is easy to talk but harder to deliver.

The legal landmines involved in allowing land grabbing are tremendous. The threat to public safety is enormous. The logistics of the idea are currently untenable and the moral/ethical conundrum that exists is heart-wrenching. Let Swartbooi own and manage the problem. Why should the Council take on the workload and huge expense for an idea that is not duly voted upon?

A statement has been made to whip up the needy masses of the people who expect something radical to happen since they elected new faces to high places. Swartbooi wants to show that he is delivering. Let him deliver.

Task Swartbooi to put in writing how this land grab will be done. He must identify who will pay for it; when it will start; who qualifies for it and how it will actually work on the ground.

Let the attorneys identify the laws on the books that will have to be suspended (if that is legally possible) for the Swartbooi Land Grab Plan to happen.

The city should assist the LPM by allowing the police and hospitals to be prepared for when the masses of the poor swarm these plots and begin to fight each other for them. Leave that melee on Swartbooi’s doorstep.

Inevitably, tin shacks will be built on water mains, electricity lines and riverbeds that will flood when it rains. Every assault, beating, and theft of property must be owned by the LPM that advocated the action. That is accountability.

The LPM must be legally liable for the land rush in areas perceived to be unoccupied state land all over the country (the rush will happen everywhere, not just Windhoek).

When the people flock to these unoccupied state land plots and decide for themselves the boundaries, let them live without municipal services of any kind.

Why should the ratepayers of the municipalities pay for services to people who are paying nothing in taxes? Money is tight for everyone. Many in their homes are struggling to keep their services from being cut off after household income has been reduced. Why should they carry municipal fees for others when they cannot pay their own?

Also, let the LPM legally define “land grab” and “lower-income brackets.” They must identify categories of people who are “deprived of land simply because they cannot afford it.” In their plan should be what happens to the land if the family breaks up or if the family gets employment and now has income (who checks for this?). Of course, Swartbooi must develop a system to ensure that each person has only ONE piece of grabbed land.

Without those definitions and clarifications, it is unclear who is entitled to what under the Swartbooi Land Grab Program.

Mayor Job should tell the masses of the people that the LPM has made a major promise that they must deliver on.

All inquiries about getting these free plots of supposedly unoccupied state land must be referred straight to the LPM. When the lines of people turn up wishing to register ‘their’ plots, send them to the LPM to sort it out.

Let the coalition now running the City of Windhoek not be cowed by the tactics used by Swartbooi. If he wants to be in charge, let him.

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