Namibia is probably one of the highest risk markets for liquidators and default judgements
Thank you for the opportunity to address this 2nd land national land conference on behalf of the Council of Churches in Namibia. Your Excellency, you characterised the issue of land and perhaps by extension, land reform, as "a vexing, complex and emotive matter".
We share your analysis, but in good faith, we understood your reference to "vexing" as meaning difficult and worrisome and not annoying, frustrating and troublesome, which the word equally means.
Yes indeed, the issue of land is a serious matter that affects the whole country and all of our people.
The persistent inequalities in the Namibian social and economic fabric are simply untenable. It is indefensible and unsustainable. Throughout history, we witnessed how such conditions had become the spark for unrest and even civil war.
Let us not take our current reality lightly and delay tackling our challenges with the seriousness that it deserves, with an open mind for creative solutions, and putting the interest of our country and peoples as a whole first - instead of bequeathing it to the next generation, our children and grandchildren.
Hence dealing with the land question cannot be primarily a government affair because the government alone cannot solve the challenges associated with land reform. Moreso, the Namibian Constitution, affirms the government as the elected representatives of the people, not seizing and subsuming the will of the people. People have a right to be at this conference and should not have had to beg the government officials for a seat at the table.
It is not correct for the public representatives and office-bearers to continuously assert that because the people had voted them into the office to govern, people have signed over their will to such representatives to control their lives and make decisions on their behalf without consulting them. Through, the ballot people, express confidence in a political party and leaders to put the interest of the country and all its people first and as a matter of course in governance, consult them on matters that affect and concern them. Our maxim should be broad-based conversations and Ongoing Consultations.
The protest outside and withdrawal of critical voices from the conference saddened the church although we respect their right to peaceful protests and take their free of interference and influenced by others, including the State. Still, it has left a stain on this conference and cannot just be an irritation or annoyance. These are responsible leaders representing critical stakeholders in the land debate and all of us, government, in particular, should do our utmost to ensure that no one has to resort to action that could have been avoided.
Unfortunately, the time allocated to the church is sufficient only for brief remarks and not serious engagement on substantive issues on the agenda. Suffice to say, from a theological, ethical perspective; there is a biblical basis for land reform that includes the following elements:
human accountability to God as Creator for the sharing and use of the whole earth - absolute ownership of land is not in the hands of people or even governments as we are all simply custodians of the land, accountable to the Creator for the manner in which we share the land, live on it, and live from the land, and manage what God has entrusted unto us. Let us not behave as if what is in our hands belongs to us all at all costs, or that we should get what currently don't have at any cost.
God's preference, expressed through Israel's law and history, for widespread distribution of the land rather than concentration of ownership in the hands of a few - the human weakness of greed feeds of our insatiable thirst to want to have more and more and more, mostly at the expense of others, justifying our unquenchable appetite for land with justifications of economic viability and sustainability.
The paramount economic interest of the smaller units of human society, i.e. households and families - too often the interest of large corporations and corrupt elements in society, as well as the prift motive trump the need for families to have access to dignified shelter, especially in urban areas.
The importance of structural and legal instruments such as Old Testament sabbatical and jubilee legislation for restoring justice in the field of agrarian poverty and indebtedness - Namibia is probably one of the highest risk markets for liquidators and default judgements where land is concerned, resulting in a disguised expropriation of land, given that there is no fair value involved in the exchange of ownership. It is not seen as a crisis, and our courts oblige and perpetuate this crisis.
The relevance of the values of the kingdom of God in the economic realm, but the rejection of violent revolution as a means of achieving them.
The interest of the church is that peace will reign in our country, and for that, we will have a lot to do because order is not merely the absence of war. The interest of the church is that people are reconciled with one another, because 28n years after independence we remain a fragmented society, primarily on racial lines, tribal lines, social class and economic status. The interste of the church is that community is built on the values of the kingdom of God, among other things respect and equality of all created in the image of God, justice and fairness, sharing and caring for one another.
Lastly, one of the most disconcerting aspects of the land question remains the structure of land ownership in Namibia, especially land for commercial agriculture purposes as borne out by the recently published research by the Namibia Statistics Agency.
Unless this imbalance is address in the shortest possible time, we anticipate it will continue to fuel resentment among the population with the potential of civil unrest and violence. Quite clearly the willing-seller, the willing-buyer principle is not working, given the admitted high demand for land and the short supply thereof otherwise, this colonial legacy would have been reversed or substantially dealt with in the years since independence. This conference must find a way of making the policy work much more useful to build a transformed society or adopt new more radical measures to achieve the desired outcome that will help create a fair and equitable society.
The question of urban land reform seems to have gone from bad to worse in the years since independence. Namibians have the right to dignified shelter hence it is unacceptable that so many Namibians have to live in informal settlements across the country, especially in towns and the city.
Understandably this is a multifaceted challenge with urban migration, the search for employment and opportunities for education at its core. The next 15 years should see a total reversal of the phenomenon of informal settlements in, and for that to happen, this conference must come up with direction and solutions.
The Ministry of Land reform needs to show greater transparency in pre-and post-settlements support otherwise it will continue fuelling speculation, rightly or wrongly about favouritism and corruption.
Our prayer is that this conference will, contribute towards an effective and efficient land reform programme in the country and that those who will be entrusted to implement the outcome of this conference do so diligently and transparently. This conference will only be successful if it is to contribute to fairness and justice to the social and economic advancement of Namibians, greater social cohesion among the people and reinforce the fundamentals of our land as enshrined in the Namibian Constitution.
God Bless You.