By: Kelvin Chiringa
The second national land conference will turn three years old on Friday amidst criticism that nothing much has been done to realise some radical resolutions adopted to upset the skewed land-ownership patterns Namibian continues to grapple with.
In 2018, the conference rolled from the 1st of October until the 5th, and brought out various resolutions.
Chief among them was the abolishing of willing seller – willing buyer principle. This was to be replaced by alternative acquisition methods.
Another key resolution was that foreign-owned agricultural land would be expropriated with just compensation while underutilised commercial land owned by Namibians would also be eligible for expropriation.
But three years later, Namibia finds herself with the pre-2018 status quo, says political analyst, Dr. Ndumba Kamwanya.
Kamwanya says the generality of Namibians has not been constantly and adequately kept in the loop with what progress has been made over the last three years.
This has created an impression of failure in acting on a majority of the critical resolutions and the ultimate solving of the land issue in a radical and fast-paced manner.
“It was stressed during that conference that it should be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Right after that the President appointed a commission of inquiry and they did their work and presented their findings to the President. Apart from that we haven’t really heard any updates in terms of those resolutions. Where are we? It is difficult to judge. Maybe it is happening.
“But what we can observe, is that in terms of landlessness, issues of urban and communal land allocation, the situation hasn’t changed after the second land conference. So, it is a little bit mind-boggling that we are not paying attention to those resolutions. We are repeating the same mistakes we made with the first land conference,” he said.
The commission of inquiry into ancestral land claims has so far presented its report and nothing further has transpired.
Expropriation is yet to be made the constitutional cornerstone for addressing land imbalances.
There is presently no concrete data that speaks to a fast-tracked land reform process at the lands ministry after 2018.
According to Henning Melber in his work, “How the first redistribution attempt failed”, soon after independence the first National Land Reform Conference recommended resettling indigenous communities and transferring commercial farmland to them.
Unfortunately, the policy never really took off, Melber says.
“The idea was that white farmers would voluntarily sell land to black buyers who would often rely on government support so they could afford the price. Whenever a current owner put land up for sale, the Conference recommended giving the government preferential rights to buy.
This policy, however, faltered fast.
“For one thing, the land purchases by government agencies were slow and inefficient. According to official data published in 2018, over 8 million hectares (a bit more than one fifth of the privately-owned farmland) were offered to the state since 1992, but only 37 % of that land was actually bought. The statistics show that whites still own almost 50 % of the land. The descendants of the people who were dispossessed under colonial rule remain landless.
The second land conference has gone exactly where the first one went, Bishop Lukas Katenda says.
The Bishop submits that three years down the line, the land question remains unresolved and the unintended consequence will be the creation of a society of beggars or a social upheaval.
“We still have people who are landless. We still have the people that have occupied land before independence still with it and we are still with the apartheid laws. Africa is still to find her destiny and to reach it. We may even waste more money and time thinking that this land conference will not bring out something hut little will come out because legal wised it is not easy to expropriate land. The danger is that you may have two scenarios. One, you are grooming an upheaval, a revolution. You will do nothing when people rise up to demand what it is rightfully theirs.
“Two, you are grooming a society of beggars, a society of people who are just there and still under colonialism and then you undermine the whole process of the liberation struggle which was about land. So, you have two things to create,” he says.