Land question remains unanswered

28 January 2020 | Opinion

We have said before that land reform in Namibia, which is currently a hot topic, should not be politicised. There is a general agreement that land reform has been a failure and needs to be sped up. Swapo leaders, most notably former president Hifikepunye Pohamba, have remarked that the government's policy of acquiring land for the landless has been a spectacular failure and that a new alternative has to be considered. Mind you, these remarks were made in 2013 and almost three years later we are still sitting with the same problem. The birth of the Affirmative Repositioning movement in 2014 to fight against elitism and its quest to pressurise the authorities to make available affordable urban land and housing was a sign that we are headed towards a land revolution. We are now witnessing rising frustration over the land question with the emergence of the Landless People's Movement, which considers former land reform deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi as its land messiah. Just like AR, Swartbooi and Co., are using the land question to fight elitism, while emphasising the enhancement of dignity, well-being and economic empowerment of the previously disadvantaged communities, including those who lost land to the apartheid regime. The land issue is a ticking time bomb and the failure to deal with land reform effectively will have a devastating impact on food production and security in the future. Also, if not properly managed, it could become a source of instability. The tension between Swartbooi and the government has created unnecessary anguish and it is worrisome that egos have prevailed over action in this whole debate. Yes, it is true that there must be a firm fight against any tendency towards elitism when it comes to the resettlement process. There must be a way to end the elite capture of resettlement benefits in our country. However, we feel that these warring factions must engage one another and find common ground going forward. We need to see action and not egos in the land debate. These deliberate efforts are bound to bear fruit if we really have the interests of the people at grassroots at heart.