Ancestral land commission appointed

22 February 2019 | Agriculture

President Hage Geingob yesterday announced the long-awaited Presidential Commission of Inquiry Into Claims of Ancestral Land Rights.

The second national land conference held in October 2018 adopted 169 land-reform resolutions to be implemented by the government, among them the issue of ancestral land claims and restitution.

The members of the commission include High Court Judge Shafimana Uietele as chairman, with Fanuel Kapaama as his deputy.

The other members are Neels Kooper, Anna Fredericks, Willem Konjore, Ryno van der Merwe, Inge Murangi, Jeaneth Kuhanga, Uhuru Dempers, Helmke von Bach, Nadia Le Hane, Joseph Petrus van der Westhuizen, Professor Lazarus Hangula, Marius Kudumo and Chief Immaneul /Gaseb. Geingob reminded the members to be mindful of the complexity of ancestral land claims in the interest of maintaining peace and stability in Namibia by ensuring that the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the constitution are not infringed upon.

“I ask you to be mindful of the fact that the work you are expected to carry out should be evidence based and enriched by national, regional and international experience, while never losing sight of the unique characteristics of Namibia's past experience of colonialism and apartheid occupation. “I expect you to be impartial in the execution of your responsibilities as members of the commission,” he said.

Ancestral land has been a contentious issue for years and the 1991 land conference had effectively dodged the issue on the pretext that there were too many overlapping and counterclaims for ancestral land.

Despite the importance attached to redressing historical injustices with regard to access to agricultural land, the restitution of ancestral land rights had been ruled out in Namibia. The country's first land conference in 1991 passed a consensus resolution that ancestral land rights could not be restored in full.

This also appeared to have been the ruling Swapo Party's position for years.

In fact, former lands Alfeus !Naruseb said in 2012 that Namibians must leave behind the past and stop demanding ancestral land because it would disturb the peace.

Five years later, in 2017, the government kept to its stance and lands minister Utoni Nujoma said the government would not entertain any talk about ancestral land, because that would promote Bantustans and tribalism.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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