Land conference ended before it started- AR

 “Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories”.

Amilcar Cabral, 1969

Introduction and Context

In 2014, November it was, we concluded and resolved that the only solution and response to the dismal failure of the SWAPO successive regimes on the land question - after the then 24 years of flag independence – was to be a radical solution. We embarked upon this radical campaign and showed the regime that the land question can no longer be suppressed and relegated to the margins of mainstream politics. At the time, the land question was not part of the ruling elite agenda. The ruling elite was then concerned with empty slogans of ‘peace and stability’ ‘one Namibia one Nation’, ‘Namibia has the best constitution’ and other slogans that resonates with emotionalists, Zombies and those who cannot comprehend the National Question in a Post-Colonial context.

As an enlightened youth, who had refused to be Zombified by the regime, we had then understood and accepted, as truth, the solemn words of Frantz Fanon when he predicted the pitfalls of National Consciousness as follows:

This fight for democracy against the oppression of mankind will slowly leave the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes laboriously, as a claim to nationhood. It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps. National consciousness, instead of being the all-embracing crystallization of the innermost hopes of the whole people, instead of being the immediate and most obvious result of the mobilization of the people, will be in any case only an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been.

In 2014, we knew that the regime first strategy would be to suppress our struggle. It first used the SWAPO machinery (suspensions, expulsion and banishment) to suppress our struggle. This failed. It then mobilized the police and secret service to intimidate us and move us into silence. This also failed. The attempts to bring in the army towards July 2015 also came to nothing.

The regime’s poor articulation skills and attempts at unleashing widespread propaganda led to disastrous consequences on their part. It is for this reason that the regime went to the traditional leaders and the church for support (hosting prayer sessions at State House in 2015) when all its efforts to suppress our just struggle failed. The dialogue that took place at State House in 2015 followed this exact sequence, a measure of last resort of a regime that invested time to suppress the struggle led by activists who had liberated themselves from fear and were not under physical, psychological and intellectual control of the ruling elites. We invoke our historical journey, out of necessity, for we see the same events repeating themselves.

Indeed, the land conference that is scheduled to take place next week must be seen in the same context. It is an attempt by the regime to gain moral high grounds and policy legitimacy, through manipulative tactics, while doing nothing about the suffering of our people.

Because of the six (6) elaborate reasons below, we have come to a conclusion that we will not be participating in the land conference, in its current format and posture; Historical Tokenism and Abuse; Afterthought and legitimacy seeking 11th Hour Invitation; Clear Signs of a Choreographed and predetermined Gimmick; Sidelining Urban Land; 15 Minutes for 1.5 Million People suffering from Urban Land challenges; and the Neo-liberal, Capitalist and anti-radical – anti-leftist Posture of the conference

1. Historical Tokenism and Abuse

On July 2015, we agreed to a dialogue with President Hage Geingob with a view to participate in a true patriotic discourse that will take our country to a new path as far as the land question is concerned. We had brought together, firstly, more than 200 young lawyers, jurists, legal scholars, prosecutors and many others to look at all the laws affecting the land question in general and urban land in particular. We later mobilized young engineers, surveyors, town and urban planners and other technical professionals and made these available to government free of charge. We later realized that President Geingob and his regime were not interested in solution but for a mere photo opportunity and to project himself as a ‘listening’ and ‘consultative leader’ when in actual fact his only concern is managing public opinion.

Since 2015, whenever he speaks about the land question, he speaks of our meeting with him, abusing us saying that we met and resolved the land question through ‘dialogue’. While he repeatedly makes these comments to the international community, the agreed resolutions remain unimplemented. Rent Control, agreed with him, remains unimplemented despite the existing law. Estate Agents Tariffs, agreed with him, remains unprescribed 4 years later. The masses of our people in rural Namibia continue to lose their Mahangu fields to business elites despite the commitments he has made four years ago. The poor continue to be evicted despite his commitment to revoke the Squatters Proclamation. Municipalities continue to prioritize private developers and house prices continues to increase despite his commitments to intervene 4 years ago. Even the agreed consensus, that ended up on page 41 to page 42 of the Harambee Prosperity Plan, including Pre-allocation of Land and the Revolving Fund for Housing, remains unfulfilled 4 years later. Despite all these and more, President Geingob still continues to abuse us by making use of our 2015 meeting while knowing very well that he has not implemented even 5% of the agreed consensus.

The land conference, like the 2015 dialogue, is evidently a platform after which he will obtain soundbites. Those that take part will be abused and used when Geingob takes international platforms where he will self-glorify and project himself as a ‘listening’ and ‘consultative leader’.

2. Afterthought and legitimacy seeking 11th Hour Invitation

We were always made aware, through sources at the High Level Committee of the conference, that the regime does not want us present at the land conference. Part of the reasons, we were told, is that the regime feared that we will liberate the delegates from the regime command structure and lead the conference ideologically causing the conference to adopt a radical posture.

It is for this reason that we were not surprised when the regime, through the leaked participant list, purposefully excluded us from attending the conference. It was after much public outcry that the regime realized that without us the conference legitimacy becomes questionable. In the afternoon of 18 September 2018, the regime resolved to invite us and only gave us only few hours to confirm attendance and send the names of three (3) delegates in less than 20 hours. How does one consult and pick the delegates in hours was not their concern. In the meantime, other delegates received their invitations months ago and had enough time to prepare while we only had few hours.

We are informed by sources that our 11th hour invitation is aimed at achieving two objectives; (a) to contain public anger and project the conference as inclusive by inviting us while designing mechanism to contain and limit us. The other purpose was (b) in case we do not attend, given the logistical difficulty placed on us by the regime such as giving us hours to confirm attendance and delegates, the regime will be seen as having been considerate and it was our own choice to make. In this instance, it will have public sympathy for the gullible will not see this as a strategy to exclude our movement.

3. Clear Signs of a Choreographed and predetermined Gimmick

That more than 70% of the delegates are government officials, that SWAPO Members of Parliament, Governors, regional representatives were instructed not to have their own opinions but follow what SWAPO SG referred to as a “united stand going into the conference” and “consensus” evidently indicates that what is scheduled to take place is a choreographed and predetermined gimmick. Some traditional leaders were brought to State House and given food and have now become friendly to the regime. They will be at the disposal of the regime to silence their subjects. More clearly, the leaked government position paper, that has already been endorsed by 70% of the conference delegates means that the outcomes of the conference are already there. In other words, the conference is already concluded before it started. The millions to be spent on this predetermined conference is therefore a wasted expenditure that could be used to address other challenges of our people including housing.

4. Sidelining Urban Land

As was the case with 1991 land conference where urban land was not discussed, the next week conference is set to sideline the mater of urban land, a more serious concern than farms that are owned by absentee landlords. During regional consultation conferences, urban land was not even a theme. We forced it on the agenda of the Khomas Regional Consultation resulting in more than 20 resolutions on Urban land as contained in the Khomas report.

The leaked government discussion paper, which is purported to have been drafted from regional reports, only has two unclear and meaningless recommendations on Urban Land. In the document, urban land is a mere half a page. The Khomas region has more inhabitants in the country. It has more than 100 000 people living in informal settlements. By 2041, the region will have 800 000 inhabitants, an increase with 500 000 from the current 300 000 inhabitants. For 99% of their resolutions on urban land to be ignored is not only a scandal but a clear indication that the regime is not interested in giving urban land the attention it deserves given the fact that 500 000 Namibians live in informal settlements, 800 000 living in debt of which housing bonds constitute majority and that more than 50% of the banks’ profits come from housing. At this conference, only 20% of the discussions will be dedicated to urban land.

5. 15 Minutes for 1.5 Million People suffering from Urban Land challenges

In the program, the AR movement is only given 15 minutes to present Urban Land reform in Namibia. In the world, there is not record of a national presentation, on a serious matter such as urban land, which is only accorded 15 minutes at a national conference. This is clear that we are only included in the program for tokenism and to silence public demand for our inclusion. Urban land and housing in Namibia affect about 1.5 million people and to expect us to present this challenge in 15 minutes – from families evicted, informal settlements reforms, land tenure system, housing finance, building societies, housing as human dignity, pre-allocation, housing laws, land delivery impediments and other – is one of the biggest jokes the regime can make. It is, therefore, clear that the regime is not serious about urban land and nothing substantive will come from this choreographed and predetermined gimmick.

6. Neo-liberal, Capitalist and anti-radical – anti-leftist Posture of the conference

It is now evident that at the ideological level, this conference takes a neoliberal and capitalist path. It is designed to reject and oppose any radical and pro-left, pro-poor resolutions that will benefit the masses. This conference is for the rich. It is for this reason that commercial banks, including the nonexistence SME bank that has delegates on the participant list, will be there to submit their proposals of maximizing profit. We have also established that foreign institutions have contributed money to sponsor specific resolutions. It is for this reason that we would like to place it on record, for posterity, that the following 10 things will happen at the conference;

6.1 There will be no resolution on Expropriation of land without compensation

6.2 The Banks will come out of the conference with a resolution to go to make money from communal areas, give loans and take over Mahangu fields from defaulting peasants

6.3 There will be no resolution on Rent Control and assisting the Renting population

6.4 There will be no resolution on free housing for the poor. There will be no resolution compelling municipalities to build student villages in towns with high concentration of students.

6.5 There will be no resolution banning eviction and demolition of the homes for the poor .

6.6 There will be no resolution on operationalizing Rent Control (as per the existing law), no resolution to amending the Building Society Act (following the 1994 Banks permitting take over) and there will be no resolution compelling NHE to assume its Banking status (as per the NHE Act).

6.7 The will be no resolution protecting the poor who lose their Mahangu fields and are not compensated fairly by Town Councils.

6.8 There will be no resolution of Ancestral Land Claims and Restitution

6.9 Foreigners will still keep the 2.5 million hectares of land and the whiteman will keep owning 70% of the farms. Foreign friendly resolutions will be taken

6.10 Unclear, general and apologetic resolutions will be taken calling for ‘committees’, ‘researches’, ‘studies’, ‘field work’ and other delay tactics just to ensure that the status quo continues. President Geingob will then used the conference at international platforms and he accounts to international capital.

The 6 reasons as articulated above and in our good revolutionary consciousness; we cannot legitimize this 15 million gimmick whose outcomes are already determined. The solution remains a radical departure from the status informed by the solemn counsel of our departed ancestor, Thomas Sankara who left us these words;

I would like to leave behind me the conviction that if we maintain a certain amount of caution and organization we deserve victory. ... You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. ... We must dare to invent the future.