The Presidential Commission into Claims on Ancestral Land Rights and Restitution held its first meeting from 6 to 10 May, having been requested to come up with a common understanding and consensus on the definition of ancestral land rights and restitution. Briefing the media here yesterday, commission chairperson Shafimana Ueitele said considerable time was spent for the 15-member commission - appointed in February this year - to finalise its work plan, including defining key activities and deliverables, timeframes and other operational plans.
He said the commission has started a process of confidence building and consultations with the stakeholders such as governors, regional councillors, leaders of political parties, traditional leaders, civil society organisations, farmers and farm workers' unions.
Ueitele, who is a high court judge, says the purpose is to introduce the commission and exchange views on the appropriate modalities for executing its mandate.
"The first round of consultations was conducted from 6 to 10 May 2019. These included courtesy calls on political parties, Windhoek-based civil society organisations, religious organisations, some traditional authorities and other relevant stakeholders," he said.
He added that the commission will meet other stakeholders for the same purpose before the regional visits scheduled for June and July this year.
According to Ueitele, the commission is expected to commence with regional visits on 17 June to 19 July.
He said the public hearings will be conducted in all 14 regions and 121 constituencies.
Ueitele said the commission is also in the processes of putting together thematic research experts entrusted with archival, historical and legal documentary reviews, site visits and conducting interviews with key informants.
Also, he said the commission has developed a media plan to facilitate regular communication with the public through the media about its work, and to continuously invite the public to participate in the commission's activities.
"We invite written submissions by individuals, groups, communities and other experts starting from 20 May until 21 June 2019," Ueitele told the media.
"Written submissions to the commission must be prepared in English, if possible, or any other language approved by the secretary," he advised, adding that if possible, be typewritten or word-processed, and must bear the name, address and telephone fax number or email of the author.
He further said the submission must be a response to the terms and reference as gazetted, including ancestral land claims.
In case of the ancestral land claims, Ueitele said the claimant must state the name of the claim, provide background information and evidence to the claim, and make recommendations regarding how restitution regarding the claim should be addressed.
"The commission has a tight schedule to finalise the inquiry and present a report. Against this background, we would like to call upon individual members of the public and organised interest groups to strictly adhere to the deadlines for submissions, and to attend the public hearings as per the regional visits schedule that will be released soon before the start of the visits," he said.
"The commission will listen to every Namibian, group and or community without fear, favour or prejudice," he said.
"The quality of the commission's output is dependent on the quality of the inputs that it will receive from the public," he added.
The terms of reference of the commission, appointed by President Hage Geingob in February this year, are, among others, the commissioning of a study to identify communities who have lost ancestral land and the establishment of the sizes of ancestral land lost and the boundaries.
The commission is further tasked with the investigation of possible unintended consequences of ancestral land claims and restitution, as well as appropriate mitigation measures (e.g. the issues related to perceived possible discrimination against other population groups) as well as the determination of how the claim on ancestral land should be premised on the human rights principle and standards guaranteed in the Namibian Constitution as well as international and regional human rights instruments binding on Namibia.
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