Schlettwein must be serious

The anticipation and expectations created by the 1991 and 2018 Land Conferences among the landless and land owners alike, cannot be over emphasised.

The fears of the land barons, including those not living in the country, were and remain expropriation. The landless want to be resettled some to engage in farming and others simply to have a place to call home. When it comes to land and its distribution, there are competing priorities and interest. The government must balance these and ensure that land distribution takes place strictly within the confines of the law to ensure that peace and stability are maintained.

The Second Land Conference in 2018 was convened to particularly look which resolutions of the 1991 conference worked and what which ones did not work and to chart a new way and fast track the decisions of the last land conference four years ago.

The 2018 conference had extensive discussion on land redistribution, expropriation, the resettlement programme and policy, legislation governing land ownership, willing-seller willing-buyer principle in acquiring resettlement land, ancestral land and support programmes for resettled communities.

Resolutions were adopted in this regard and line ministries given time lines in some instances to give practical effect to the decisions.

As a consequence of the Land Conference recommendations, a President Commission of Inquiry into Claims of Ancestral Land Rights and Restitution was established by President Hage Geingob.

The Commission after completing its work recommended that an Ancestral Land Rights Claim and Restitution law be enacted, on condition that this process and its outcome be consistent with constitutional, international and human rights law.

How far is the government formulating and drafting this legislation for passing in Parliament. These are the important issues on which we need feedback.

This week the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform issued a notice that as part of the ‘’efforts to assure accountability and transparent administration by the Second Land Conference of Namibia’’ it was ‘’resolved and in fact directed that the MAWLR should conduct an audit of the land acquisition and allotment activities’’.

In light of the above the ministry invites members of the public who have ‘’solid prove’’ or evidence of officials, possible beneficiaries and/or other parties conniving with one another to commit or engage in the mentioned atrocities of corruption, fraud or other irregular conduct with the aim to corruptly or inappropriately benefit the officials, beneficiaries and/or other parties to report the same’’.

It is noble and commendable for Minister Carl Schlettwein to want to take action against his officials and third parties engaging in corrupt activities related to land acquisition, allotment or procurement.

While, we are not relegating this issue as unimportant, we would want to know from Schlettwein if this should be a priority, while there were a range of other issues regarded as more critical by the landless to focus on.

The people are hungry for land, generational farmworkers fired by their employers are spending years in corridors with their animals, as they have nowhere to go to live and graze their livestock.

What is important to the landless is the acceleration of land delivery.

But, the ‘Elephant in the Room’ which hampers availability of more land is the unwillingness of white land barons to sell land to the government for resettlement or charging exorbitant prices that are not market related for their farms.

The problem is absentee landlords occupying fertile agricultural land not used productively, it is invasion of communal land by powerful groups or individuals particularly in the Kavango regions, fending of communal land by the powerful, including politicians, generational farmworkers and traditional groups such as the /Khomanin in the Khomas Region, who have been dispossessed of all their ancestral land.

Minister Schlettwein these are the urgent issues your ministry should focus on, and not direct our attention away from real and urgent problems for which we must find solutions.

Yes, the last resettlement land audit was done 10 years ago and it was decided to carry out a new audit, which according Dr Wolgang Werner is to establish inter alia:

• Farms offered

• Farms purchased

• Farms declined

• Number of people settled

• Age profile of beneficiaries

• Full-time or part-time

• Tenure security
And certainly not to investigate your officials engaging in corruption, fraud and other inappropriate conduct in land acquisition and allotment or procurement. Let us prioritise – let us look at how we can keep rural folks on the land and avoid ‘’de-agrarianisation’’ by coming up with appropriate policy interventions.The Ministry of Agriculture must lead us on this important journey of restoring the dignity of our people through effective and egalitarian resettlement policy and process.

By Observer