Namibia still “searching” for “correct” land reform trajectory 32 years after?

Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

“This Eurocentric [capitalist] approach to land reform will never get us anywhere. It continues to protect the interests of foreigners. It continues to protect the background where we come from and enforce it. We are never moving towards reform and never moving towards ensuring that the livelihoods of our people are going to be transformed. Not now. Not under the current situation.” Sandie Tjaronda of the Ancestral Land Foundation of Namibia (AFLON). 28062022.

“We run around here as politicians talking about industrial revolution. We believe in agrarian revolution. The first act of revolution must be agriculture based where you can have land in order to produce. Once you have produced enough than you have created reserves (surplus), is when you will go over to industrial revolution. First thing first. We can’t put the cart before the horses.” Sir Welcome Kazondunge.(AFLON) 28062022

Yours Truly Ideologically finds the two quotes from the two leaders of the Ancestral Land Foundation of Namibia (AFLON) really instructive. Actually encapsulating the ideological chaos if not ideological vacuum and bankruptcy of the land reform policy landscape in Namibia.

AFLON this Tuesday zeroed in on critical issues pertaining to and surrounding land redistribution in Namibia. These being the progress and/or lack of progress on ancestral land, incoherent and insufficient approach to natural calamities during state of emergencies like drought and veldfires, and the invasion of communal land by the government.

The 2018 Second National Land Conference eventually accommodated on its agenda the ancestral land question. This was against all expectations, given fears if not outright antagonism and opposition. Notably by leading Namibian politicians, foremost the current President, and his two forerunners, ostensibly invited and drafted into the conference to quash and crash the idea of ancestral land, let alone to ensure that it was never on the agenda of the said conference.

Not only this but most of the presumably eminent names economically and politically imaginable in Namibia, were drafted to populate the conference to specifically moderate the groundswell opinion in favour of ancestral land, among many other critical issues, as far as land restoration and acquisition and redistribution to the land dispossessed and landless Namibians, foremost the descendants of the victims of German Capitalist Colonialism. Land dispossession which culminated in the Genocide of the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama, as it has come to be now widely accepted in Namibia, and worldwide, despite initial denialism. Denialism which to this day is being not only persisted with but is being advanced in different forms, shapes and political mechanisations. With the government of the day leading this crusade with its apparatchik in the civil service.

You name them all, the who is who of the Namibian political landscape from central government to regional and local authorities. They populated the 2018 Second National Land Conference. Ironically even traditional authorities from regions which may be considered to have minimal, or for that matter peripheral interest in land dispossession, if any interest at all, warmed up the limited seats of the conference at the expense of the land dispossessed and landless.

Because of the engineering, mechanisations and shenanigans surrounding the conference, a substantial constituent of the land dispossessed and landless boycotted the conference while others were simply sifted out. Thus the united front of the land dispossessed and landless before the conference was temporarily broken if not for ever. With a section thereof no longer having confidence in the conference delivering on their quest for land dispossession and landlessness. With another section opting to attend the conference nevertheless, and by all means necessary to be part of it and ensure, if only that the question of ancestral land was not only the agenda but duly vented and discussed.

As it came to be, and beyond all expectations, ancestral land served on the agenda of the conference as a thematic issue. With a resolution on it at the end of the conference. This is the resolution which has eventually culminated in the Commission of Inquiry Into Ancestral Land Rights Claims. Only the reigning President knows where this report is, which the Commission has submitted to him, and what is happening and being done about its findings? Foremost of these recommendations is the legitimacy of ancestral land rights claims,that the Commission affirmed. Simply meaning there are indigenous Namibians who have been dispossessed of their ancestral land. What is the government doing about this? Because the question post the 2018 Second National Land Conference, is no longer whether it would deliver or not. It has come and gone. But its resolutions are there. Some arguably more than what the land dispossessed and landless Namibians could, against all expectations, have dreamed, hoped and bargained for.

As they say the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. Thus the proof of the resolutions from the 2018 Second National Land Conference cannot be in anything else but their implementation. Yours Truly Ideologically strongly believes that land reform in Namibia does not need another Third National Land Conference. But that all that needs doing is processing these recommendations. The processing and implementation of these resolutions, including the findings of the Commission of Enquiry Into Ancestral Land Rights Claims, given the sensitivity and emotiveness of the land question, and attendant question of colonial Capitalist land dispossession and obtaining landlessness, especially among the descendants of the victims of land dispossessed and genocidal acts which preceded their dispossession, must be a forthright, purposeful and transparent undertaking as can.

Given that this far the approach to the land reform and land question resolution has been far from transparent. The resettlement programme attest to this. The land dispossessed must be consulted every step of the processing and implementation of the said resolutions. Anything short of this is as good as the 2018 Second National Land Conference was never.

It is not so much about what the government is and has been doing regarding land reform based on the said resolutions, but much more about what it has not been doing and done.

Listening to some State of the Region Addresses (SONAs) recently, especially in areas predominantly inhabited by the land dispossessed and landless, then need for an agrarian revolution ala Kazondunge becomes apparent. You name them Hardap, /Karas, Omaheke and Otjozondjupa. Because the catalogue of things that may have been done in these regions pertaining to land reform and/or redistribution or development, is no more than just catalogues. No trace of fundamental land reforms based on land restitution and/or distribution to the land dispossessed landless. Haphazard projects at best as opposed to meticulously planned projects as one would with any sustainable projects, is the epitome of the catalogues. Yes, in the short term they may provide rather than sustain communities but only in the short term.

“The ultimate reason of development failure in Sub-Saharan Africa is that this this region has not initiated the world of intensive agricultural process. While this necessary agricultural revolution implies an industrialization which has not begun,” eminent African scholar and Marxist-Leninist, late Samir Amin hypothesised in his paper in 1991 titled Ideology and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa he prepared for a Pan African Conference right here in Windhoek, Namibia. This is exactly what Kazondunge is speaking as per his quote. Looks like Namibia was too young to have learnt anything from this. Thirty two years after she is still young. Telling from the ongoing land reform trajectory. Not to mention the captain now at the helm of the land reform, himself a descendant of those who were in the first place responsible for the dispossession. Can the land dispossessed and land landless really have any confidence in him, let alone in the Namibian government?

By Observer