The time to get something going on land redistribution and land reform is now. 2021 is the time for the new normal. The same old meetings, platitudes and fake solutions are bankrupt. The people who want land for themselves (there is little concern about a national policy) are tired of waiting. Decision-makers must think about land reform differently and begin to enact even partial solutions, now.
Land grabbing cannot be allowed. Forced redistribution of private land owned by others even with the compensation offered, is illegal in most cases. It is unpolitic to make these statements bluntly, but it must be done. Most in Namibia understand that the need for affordable land ownership has been pressing for a long time.
The new normal of 2021 has taken the leash off the impatience of the masses of the people. The promises of meetings to ‘solve’ problems mean one thing to those impatient for land and another thing for those who call for those gatherings. Those who have no new ideas use such words about meetings and laws to push this problem down the road. They have no new ideas. They have no idea how to handle the masses’ demands, land grabs, ancestral land claims, and anger over huge plots of land being sold to foreigners.
The gross inequity in income in Namibia is of epic proportions, the rich are getting richer, and the poor are absolutely getting poorer. The masses see the corruption that nets the rich and powerful hundreds of thousands if not millions. They are saying, why not me too? If they can steal a million, why can’t I grab this land?
Anyone saying the government has done nothing on land issues is unfair and incorrect statistically. But what little has been done has not addressed the root of the problem, which is unemployment. Ownership without income is impossible. Even a free handout of land or the smallest of houses will cost the recipient money.
It is time for the government to stop saying what is illegal in terms of land redistribution or ownership, but to speak definitively about what is legal and possible. Why not design a fair system of blind/random distribution of un-serviced government land for a living (not ownership)? Start handing those plots out in a fair manner and for a small fee.
The truth must be told. Most Namibians will not own their own farms or serviced homes. The government must begin to look seriously at renting out subsidized affordable housing. Government-owned farms and demarcation of un-serviced plots must be planned and then implemented in a fair manner.
Much of what is demanded by those looking for a land solution that serves them personally or their families and their communities only. What they want disadvantages others who have rights equal to their own. But they don’t care; they want their land solution regardless of anyone else.
This issue goes even deeper. To say one plot for a ‘family’ is a problem. Why should a woman’s right to own her own land be subjugated to her husband or male partner’s land claim? The land is not for males only. Women have just as much right to grab-to-own a piece of land as men.
If the land grabbers’ thinking is followed, then people in villages have the right to come to town and grab land. Ethnicity and traditional living areas would not apply – anyone could grab land anywhere within Namibia’s borders. What will be the ethnic backlash of that?
Government has no money. It cannot afford to service land or assisting those with their living needs. Who will provide the humane services (water, for example) needed for the land grabbers? Should those who struggle to pay their bank housing loans, rates and taxes pay for those who receive free land/houses and cannot pay for services?
There is not enough arable land in Namibia for every adult citizen to ‘own’ one farm or a viable piece of serviced urban land. There are over one million Namibians 21 or older. Are there one million empty arable farms and serviced plots?
Discussing such a thing is a waste of time. Decision-makers must make this point immediately and often. People will not like hearing this, but it is true.
Taking land from one person and giving it to another is illegal in Namibia and it will not happen. Government has no money to buy land this year and hand it over to those most in need.
The government can quickly lose control of this situation if cold hard reality isn’t on the table.
Simultaneously, new ideas for innovative land/housing for the poor must come forth quickly. The time for talk is over. 2021 means action. The people are impatient. A meeting won’t stall them any longer.