The 1991 First National Land Conference was definitely a lost opportunity in terms of putting the country’s land reform on a different pedestal albeit for a starter.
One may have an understanding for this and leave with such a lost opportunity. Because it could have been and was expecting at best wonders for the country, only a year old then, to have taken any revolutionary decisions at the said conference in terms of land. Because then the historical-politico-socio and economic if not cultural significance of land, if only to some of the indigenous populace who during colonial penetration were dispossessed of it and subsequently by such dispossession were deprived and have been ever since been deprived in all aspects enumerated above, may and could not have dawned on the political principals, the founding cohorts of the new political dispensation. Not to mention the constitutional entrenchments mitigating and sill mitigating against any would be revolutionary and radical land reform, including its redistribution, if not repossession and its restitution to those dispossessed of it. In the intervening years there must have been some realism around and regarding the questi
on of land, if only such realism and/or real politik must have been informed by the fact that the very land which was taken away by any means necessary, de jure and even if you wish by force, leading eventually to the first genocide of the 20th century against the Nama , Ovambanderu and Ovaherero by Imperial Germany, one would have expected since some significant strides towards land redistribution. But this has not been the case despite there having been in the intervening years since independence in 1990, its fair and equitable redistribution. But this was not be and has not been. Despite there having been a resettlement programme in place, its impact in terms of land restitution, has been and remains zero. With the beneficiaries thereof to this day remaining a mystery, except for a sprinkling of the list of beneficiaries with the names of a few previously disadvantaged to camouflage the actual beneficiaries, who are mostly the political and economic elite. Even them in most cases are and have been those cl
ose to the elite class. Meaning this far the resettlement programme has failed dismally in terms of land redistribution. Other than it becoming a scrambling game among the elite and those close to it.
Resultantly there has been since independence persistent land landlessness and land hunger and deprivation, underlined and parallel to continuous land theft by the political and economic elite. Resultantly those dispossessed of it remains dispossessed. They are the ones who all along been leading the clarion call for the return of the land. Culminating in the Second National Land Conference of 2018. Which a section of the land dispossessed boycotted for lack of confidence and trust that it would come up with any revolutionary decisions regarding the redistribution of land. Were they and could they have been wrong in this regard? NO and YES.
NO because against all expectations the Second National Land Conference did have on its agenda relevant concerns of the land dispossessed, their continued dispossession and attendant land hunger and poverty. That the resettlement programme has dismally been failing to address all these years. Partly because those who have been at the bureaucratic helm of the land redistribution institutions, have instead been fending for selves and their own and kind. And also because those who possess of land have been making it difficult for the government to acquire land on the basis of the willing buyer, willing seller capitalist free market concept.
YES, because five years down the line after the Second National Land Conference, none of the various resolutions have been implemented. Not only this fast track to 2023, there is on the agenda the s—called National Resettlement Policy. How it came about and who its drafters are, it is a mystery. But one thing for sure is that those who have been dispossessed of land and the prime mover of the 2018 land conference, could not have been part of the said policy. Not only this but in terms of content one discerns little synergy between the said policy and the 2018 land conference. It is telling whoever the drafters of the 2023 resettlement policy are and may have been, they seem to have been oblivious to the its resolutions, if not the very spirit of the conference. Which was loud in terms of a radical land redistribution initiative. That one, of all people Yours Truly Ideologically, does not see in the three models the policy proposes as criteria for resettlement. If the drafters, to give them the benefit of the
doubt are and may have been aware of the resolutions of the 2018 land conference, then by default and/or design they simply have been lost in translation.
More than anything, true to capitalism that Namibia is, the policy is based on productivity. Yes, one cannot dismiss productivity. But equally is and should productivity be the most essential criteria for resettlement in a country like Namibia reeling in poverty and the overriding consideration of any venture must and should be subsistence rather than the creation of surplus value. Once again the resettlement policy is laying bare the ideological and/or philosophical basis that most of Namibia’s policies are and have been replete with. Resultantly their ineffectiveness and inefficiency. Rendering most if not all of them, more than anything, not real policies but mere trial and error measures. Like the case with the said resettlement policy which seems a hybrid for addressing many varied socio-economic ills, even purely a place to stay. Does one really need to redistribute land for someone to stay on other than if needs be for subsistence and sustenance? Which seems to be the case in terms of one of the mode
l proposed in the resettlement policy.
But after everything has been said and done, it is not as if the resettlement policy that has been, could not have been effective. Has it not been for those implementing it dishing out land among their cronies. How different given the chronic ills of governance can the new resettlement policy be insulated from mis- and ill-governance?