21 September 2017

Namibia: Swapo MPs Block Debate On Land

Over 50 Swapo lawmakers shot down a proposed debate on the issue of ancestral land and a demand for the list of all beneficiaries under the government's resettlement farms programme.

The ruling party stopped Swanu member of parliament Usutuaije Maamberua from tabling the motion in the National Assembly for lawmakers to discuss the allocation of land under the government's resettlement programme meant for previously disadvantaged Namibians.

Maamberua's proposal also raised concerns about bribery, fraud and corruption in the allocation of state land.

However, land reform minister 25000Utoni Nujoma suggested during the parliamentary session on Tuesday that Maamberua should not be allowed to table his motion.

Nujoma said concerns by Maamberua are addressed in the proposed land bill which was withdrawn from the National Assembly.

The minister claimed that the proposals in the motion included asking a parliamentary committee to consult people in the regions, a process he said had already been done by his ministry.

"I strongly object [to the motion]. I do not find it necessary at all since the issues he raised are already included in the (proposed) Land Bill," Nujoma said, adding that the land conference will soon be held as promised by President Hage Geingob.

Maamberua said parliament cannot wait for the land conference since it has been postponed to an undetermined date.

Nujoma and fellow Swapo members rejected that plea.

A fuming Maamberua accused Nujoma of blocking the motion because he and the land reform ministry want to hide the list of people who benefited from the resettlement programme since independence.

He said the ruling party is using "flimsy excuses" to block the discussion, while the main reason is to possibly cover up corrupt land deals.

"The land is not yours. Jesus Christ, " Maamberua said, looking straight at Nujoma, who sits a few chairs across him.

Nujoma shouted back: "The land is also not yours".

Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi intervened throughout the discussion between Nujoma and Maamberua, but decided to ask parliamentarians to vote on whether to allow the topic to go ahead or not.

Over 50 Swapo parliamentarians stood up in support of Nujoma, while 10 opposition parties' members supported Maamberua.

Shooting down topics is not new in parliament, as it is part of the political battle in the chamber.

However, the blocking of critical national discussions have become the norm since Katjavivi took over as Speaker in 2015.

Katjavivi earlier also blocked Maamberua's discussion on whether there was a need to build a proposed N$3 billion new parliament.

He likewise blocked the debate on the SME Bank saga a few months before it was shut down.

Opposition lawmakers see Katjavivi as conforming to most decisions taken by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who is the head of government's business in the National Assembly.

Maamberua said Katjavivi did not handle the proposed land motion properly.

"The Speaker must look at the reasons given by people objecting. The unfortunate thing is that the Speaker caucuses with the members of the ruling party," he stated.

He charged that Katjavivi has, on many occasions, taken sides with the ruling party, unlike his predecessor Theo-Ben Gurirab, who sometimes asked the clashing lawmakers to go out of the chamber to sort out their differences.

Katjavivi was unreachable for comment yesterday. He did not pick up his mobile phone.

"The list of the resettled farmers since independence to date be made available to this house (National Assembly) during the cause of the discussions in compliance with the open and transparent paradigm as exemplified by President Geingob," Maamberua noted in his undelivered statement which was obtained by The Namibian.

He added that parliament should play an oversight role on the land reform programme to monitor progress.

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