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No common ground for civic society, land reform ministry

Fri, 18 August 2017 19:23
by Kelvin Chiringa
News Flash

With just a month left now before the convening of the high profile second national land conference, civic society has come out guns blazing against the land reform ministry for playing hide and seek and elbowing “key stakeholders” from participating in the preparations process.

 In a letter written to the Office of the President, a contingent of civic society organisations blamed the ministry for declining invitations to participate in forums they organised to discuss conference related and land issues.

By July 7 of this year, civic society had not, as alleged in the letter, been made aware of any research papers commissioned or indications of invited local and international speakers neither had working papers been made available for stakeholders to prepare, nor draft agenda and concept notes outlining conference objectives set.

 Civic society sought President Hage Geingob’s urgent intervention on the matter to assess whether the nation was ready for the conference or not.

According to Uhuru, the President has since written back to them requesting the provision of more information to make up his mind on the outstanding matters before such a meeting can take place.

“At the moment we are collecting that information, and we are consulting with stakeholders. Soon we will get back to the president on our position,” he told The Villager.

 He could not say when such data would be made available to the presidency and time seems to be running out as the days edge closer. At the same time, Uhuru admits that although the issue of ancestral land will make up part of the agenda, civic society and other stakeholders have not yet come together to take a unified stance on the issue.

Nevertheless, with so much adrenaline having been witnessed lately on the issue, the admittance by GRN to have the issue discussed has been interpreted to be the “progress that we have appreciated.”

“The request for the discussion on matters to do with the ancestral land has been granted. The only concern that we have is that there needs to be a consensus built around this issue before we go to the conference. We think that if we go with all these emotions and opposing views, it is going to be counterproductive,” he said.

On the other hand, Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) whose number has most of Namibia’s commercial white farmers has indicated that it will only “commit itself to a fruitful and sustainable land reform process”.

The union could not clarify what it meant by sustainable although it is an open secret that its presence would be to seal the fate of the land issue in a manner that does not threaten their ownership to their property.

 In preparation for the Second National Land Conference, the Executive Council of the NAU has in the previous week looked at the critical aspects and especially the 1991 decisions and an extensive document which among other things includes the current position of land ownership in Namibia has been prepared for the Second National Land Conference.

“This document will be the core of the NAU’s viewpoints at the Second National Land Conference and will among other things also be provided to the Ministry of Land Reform in an attempt to contribute towards a future successful land reform policy and strategy in Namibia,” says the Union.

This is not the first time that civil society has raised red flags and last year after so many such grievances in the run up to the conference, the entire event had to be called off, although the minister blamed it on the lack of funds.

“We are not saying the conference must be postponed; we are concerned about the state of readiness on the part of the ministry to host the conference. We requested the president to convene a meeting of stakeholders, government, civil society, the private sector, commercial farmers and so forth so that we jointly can assess the readiness and decide whether we proceed or reschedule,” said land Activist Uhuru Dempers.

 The land reform ministry public relations officer Crispin Matongela earlier rubbished Uhuru’s sentiments of civic society exclusion saying that the ministry was on course with the conference and consultations are ongoing.