14 July 2017

Namibia: Land Reform Officials Branded 'Failures'

land reform ministry officials were labelled "failures" by a local activist at the two-day //Karas regional land workshop at Keetmanshoop on Wednesday.

At the same time in Windhoek yesterday, a DTA of Namibia representative branded government's regional land consultations an illusion conducted for show because he claimed major interest groups were deliberately excluded.

//Karas activist Deodat Dirkse questioned the regional workshop's agenda and claimed it was designed to give the land reform ministry control over land discussions.

"An action sheet - resolutions of the 1st national conference - was converted into an agenda. //Karas must reject this regional conference," Dirkse said.

He said the failure of the ministry to implement 80% of resolutions taken at the 1991 national land conference clearly demonstrated "they are failures", he said.

"They have even failed to explain why they're failing," he said, asking how the land reform ministry could be trusted with organising the second land conference in September this year.

He suggested that the Office of the Prime Minister be tasked with organising the land conference.

"The bottom line is that they lack integrity, and cannot be trusted," Dirkse stated.

Echoing the stance of the Landless People's Movement, the land activist said the issue of ancestral land should have topped the workshop agenda.

"Those occupying ancestral land, and exploiting resources on the land to their benefit should be forced to pay royalties to Nama traditional authorities as compensation for land that had been robbed from the people," Dirkse suggested.

The money derived from these royalties, said Dirkse, should be use by the traditional authorities to improve the lives of their people.

At the same occasion, //Karas governor Lucia Basson called on workshop participants to say how they wanted the ancestral land issue to be addressed.

"Be specific and tell us what it is that you want," Basson said. "I know what is that you want, but won't say it."

Workshop facilitator, Sam Geiseb, said some inputs by participants were "radical".

He said ancestral land, the plight of farmworkers, and a lack of support for resettlement farmers were amongst issues discussed on the day of the workshop.

He said a report would be submitted to the land reform ministry within two weeks.

In the meantime, at the Windhoek consultation workshop yesterday, the DTA's acting Khomas coordinator, Ignatius Semba, accused government of only conducting the consultations for show.

"Having been invited to attend this workshop, I was surprised to find that multiple key interest groups had been excluded and were not present at all," charged Semba at a press conference.

He said the consultative workshop was not widely publicised and was effectively an invitation-based event.

"It is puzzling to find that at a discussion on an issue as important as land, there was no representation of political parties, the commercial farmers' union, farm workers' representatives, land and housing lobby groups, members of the private sector directly involved in land or housing financing as well as many other critical sectors of society with vested interests in the land debate," he said.

Semba said he noted that even the ministries of finance and agriculture did not send representatives, and that half of the workshop was lengthy speeches.

He suggested that the planned three-day national land conference be extended to a full week.

"It is also important that the amount of speeches and statements by political figures be limited as much as possible so there is enough time for real and substantive deliberations by ordinary Namibians," he said.

Lands ministry spokesperson Chrispin Matongela denied that some groups, including the Landless People's Movement and the Affirmative Repositioning Movement, had been excluded.

"These are public consultations, everyone is invited. It is not a secret. The permanent secretary specifically informed all the governors to invite the youth and others," he said. "If they did not read it in the media, they should not blame the ministry," he said.

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