Namibia: Editorial ... Expropriate Without Compensation


IF THERE was ever a time to enforce expropriation without compensation, the government has a golden opportunity. We have a new settler.

The new settler didn't come from overseas. He/she did not have a bible in one hand and gun in the other. And, of course, is not a coloniser in the classic sense of the concept. He/she is more sly than the barbaric coloniser of old.

Yet, the result is the same. Since Namibia's independence in 1990, hundreds or about 1 000 families have lost their ancestral land and rights to the new dark-skinned post-colonial land grabber. Only this time, the traditional (tribal) leader (caused to mushroom under the new government) is often the leading culprit, taking the land without due process and without any compensation or remedy.

Expropriation should be straightforward because the people, who are dispossessed and deprived of their land, are very much alive. They can be traced easily.

But this is all wishful thinking on our part. The owners of the land are poor. They have no name recognition beyond their villages. Their story is not even politically sexy, because those are the easily misled voting stock of the ruling elite.

From former President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who was given land in the Kavango, to Cabinet minister Tjekero Tweya, who has defied court orders to remove a fence that has taken up water sources and grazing, powerful politicians and their business cohorts (aided and abetted by traditional authorities) will make sure that there is no such thing as compensation without expropriation.

At the very least, they'd jump onto the bandwagon as long as the target is the 'other' -- whites owning land are much easier to play the political football with, than to tackle the core concerns about the calls and clamour for land.

This week, the High Court ordered police and other government agencies to evict communal farmers who illegally occupied the land of the Nyae-Nyae Conservancy and the Ju/'hoansi San community. Who will enforce the orders, including criminal investigations, when police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga is among the political elite who have benefited from the new settler phenomenon?

The upcoming land reform conference will most likely amount to nothing more than mind games that politicians and powerful business people will play to maintain their benefits, while diverting from the real issues.

If poor and marginalised people can continue to lose their land and livelihoods in the so-called communal areas, how does any right-thinking person believe that taking land from white people will remedy any of the colonial problems?

Unless authorities began to reverse the dispossession and deprivation of productive land that took place less than 30 years ago, forget reversing the ills of colonialism more than 100 years ago.

In fact, expect the new generation to be saddled with correcting today's land corruption some 30 years down the line.

It is thus imperative that talk of expropriation without compensation must be put into action now, starting with the more straightforward cases.

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