Geingob preaches caution
President Hage Geingob has cautioned that the emotions around ancestral land claims can be used to stir up civil war.
16 July 2019 | Government
“This issue of land, used by some people for their own purposes can put this country at war. Civil war.
“That is how civil war starts, the emotions, politicians…” Geingob said yesterday at State House during a meeting with representatives of the ancestral land claims commission.
“No one is trying to do in the Namibian public, those who fought for the land are also demanding their land. Land was taken by the Germans and then the Boers took it during apartheid. Then Swapo and Swanu took up arms to fight for the land, and those people are also demanding.”
High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele, who is chairing the commission, told Geingob that Namibians want government to place a moratorium on the resettlement programme and halt the sale of the Erindi Private Game Reserve to Mexican billionaire Alberto Baillères.
Ueitele said there was also a strong demand that the identification of ancestral land not be limited to pre-independence, but that it be expanded to the post-independence era.
He added the reasons cited by those who had already started attending the countrywide commission public hearings was that they had lost their ancestral to expanding urban centres.
Ueitele said Namibians had also complained that the demarcation of political regions for electoral and governance purposes had led to conflicting traditional authority boundaries.
“There is a perception that the current resettlement programme is skewed and imbalanced and does not address the land needs of the communities that were dispossessed of their ancestral land through German and apartheid colonialism. Some of these communities accordingly requested that the implementation of the resettlement programme be put on hold, pending the outcome of the recommendations from this commission of enquiry,” he said.
Ueitele added there is strong opposition to the sale of Erindi and that some communities have been calling for the sale to be put on hold, pending the outcome of the commission's work.
Opposition parties and several other interest groups have also condemned the sale of the 71 000-hectare game reserve, with Nudo saying government must stop the sale until all ancestral land is identified in the country.
Ovaherero and Ovambanderu community members also marched recently in an attempt to stop government from selling Erindi, land saying it is prime ancestral land.
The group, who marched under the banner of the Namibia Ancestral Land Foundation, said the land that now forms part of the game reserve was stolen from their forefathers after the 1904-08 genocide in which thousands were killed.
Ueitele also told the media that the commission will cost government between N$10 and N$15 million, and to date it has travelled approximately 9 000 kilometres while making courtesy calls.
The commission kicked off its public hearings this month, where it is accepting submissions and inputs.
Meanwhile, the commission's deputy chairperson Phanuel Kaapama said the public hearings are “on fire” and so many overlapping claims are being submitted in one area.
“We have seen in many places, for example in Aminius, where the Tswana are saying they were first and the Damara and the Ovaherero are saying they were also first,” he said.
Erindi opposition grows
Namibia's largest trade union federation, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), has previously said government betrayed the nation by approving the sale of Erindi to a foreigner, despite strong opposition to the deal.
Several other concerned groups and opposition parties, including Nudo and Swanu, have also urged government to halt the sale while the commission of inquiry into ancestral land claims completes its investigations. The Namibia Ancestral Land Foundation (NALAFO) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCRN) have also called for the Erindi deal to be cancelled.
Recently, 16 traditional authorities appealed to the government to place a moratorium on the sale of land to foreigners.
They also asked the government not to allow close corporations in which foreigners have controlling interests to acquire land in Namibia until mechanisms to address restorative justice are put in place. These should include policy and legal frameworks for the expropriation of land.
Geingob, who met with Baillères at State House last month, also urged the Mexican billionaire to invest further in Namibia, while Baillères raised concerns about the country's laws and whether his investment in Erindi would be safe, once his purchase offer has been given the green light.
The Erindi transaction is currently awaiting regulatory approval by the Namibian Competition Commission (NaCC). This is a standard process where sizeable acquisitions are concerned and Baillères and his team are working closely with the NaCC to clarify the questions that have been posed.
The next step is for all the suspensive conditions that Baillères and the seller agreed upon to be satisfied, before the sale can be concluded.
Geingob, who described Baillères as a “special investor”, urged him to make use of other investment opportunities in Namibia.
He assured Baillères that Namibia is a law-abiding society, adding that a waiver was given by government to the owners of Erindi to sell the 71 000-hectare private game reserve.
Geingob also stressed that the farm is not suitable for resettlement purposes.