Mbumba gets cold shoulder

Political and civil stakeholders have withdrawn from the country's upcoming second national land conference, amid anger directed at the Swapo-led government.

28 September 2018 | Agriculture

Ovaherero, Nama and Damara traditional leaders, civil society organisations and some opposition parties, as well as an unaffiliated trade union federation, have announced they are withdrawing from the country's second national land conference.

This comes despite an eleventh hour intervention by acting head of state, Nangolo Mbumba, who tried to mollify them on Wednesday afternoon into participating, by saying some changes would be made to the programme.

The groups rebuffed this overture and have stuck to their guns, saying the intent and purpose of those responsible for the organisation of the conference was to further dislodge indigenous groups, which have lost land in the successive colonial and apartheid eras.

The Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA), the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA), the Damara King's Council, the Nangof Trust, Swanu, Nudo and the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) announced their withdrawal yesterday, days before the land indaba is to commence this coming Monday.

The announcement was anticipated on Wednesday, but they were hastily called in by Mbumba, who tried to appease them.

“We shall die fighting,” said Ovaherero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro on behalf of the groups, a sentiment echoed over and over by other traditional leaders at a joint press briefing yesterday.





Popular Democratic Party (PDM) leader, McHenry Venaani, also announced his party's withdrawal late yesterday afternoon, saying their participation would only legitimise pre-determined conference outcomes, among others.

The Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement also confirmed yesterday afternoon they would not be attending the land conference, because the urban land question will not be sufficiently dealt with at the indaba, among other reasons.

The general consensus among the civil and traditional groups is that the conference is a “sham” and not worthy of attendance by Namibians committed to resolving the land question justly and equitably.

The groups took issue with the composition of the conference, which they say was not put through a broadly consultative process.

They say it will simply be a case of government speaking to itself.

About 80% of the representatives at the conference will be government ministers, governors and public officials, while only 20% representation has been afforded to others.

“Those government entities are all going to toe the government line, as contained in the government position paper issued on 4 September, which contains clear recommendations on what these government entities should resolve on the different issues to be discussed at the conference,” Rukoro said.

The matter that tipped the scales in favour of a conference boycott is the fact that government and Swapo functionaries have already decided that ancestral land right claims and restitution are to be discussed at the conference, but that there will not be any implementation of any recommendations in this regard.

The boycotting groups maintain that nothing in the Namibian Constitution, which is the supreme law of the country, negates such claims and restitution for ancestral land.

They said the colonial expropriation of land previously occupied by the Damara, Ovaherero, Nama, and San and South Africa's illegal occupation thereof, requires parliamentary legislation to provide restitution, as a means of redress to those Namibians.

This, they say, is something the Namibian government has “consistently and pathetically” failed to do for close to 30 years.

They said the claim by government that most regions are not in favour of ancestral land claims is a blatant lie, adding only three northern regions have not supported this.

They said government's 'majoritanism' is out of sync with national reconciliation and cannot foster peace, unity and common loyalty.

“How can one be loyal to an unjust state and be united with, be reconciled with and be at peace with fellow citizens that insist on maintaining your dispossession, while they enjoy the continuous ownership of their ancestral land?” Rukoro questioned.

He said Namibia is the only African country that denies the existence of ancestral land and its colonial dispossession.

“It is shameful that while we domestically deny the right to ancestral land to dispossessed citizens of Namibia we proceed to lay a monetary claim against Germany for expropriated land. Which land? On behalf of whom are we laying such claims? Clearly our greed seems to blind us from seeing this shameful contradiction,” Rukoro said.

“Let the government and its entities proceed with their mini-Berlin Conference, which is aimed at declaring a political and economic extermination order against the dispossessed of our people. The judgement of history shall be upon it. If this conference does not do justice to the question of Damara, Ovaherero, Nama and San ancestral land claims and restitution, it shall have planted the seed of injustice, which in time shall destroy the peace and stability we hold dear.”

The groups said the outcome of the land conference should be anchored in restitution and/or resettlement of those that lost land. It should also cater for the settlement of all other Namibians - irrespective of colour, creed, gender or ethnic origin.

They say land conference decisions should be arrived at by consensus, as was the case at the country's first national land conference in 1991 and not by a majority vote, as was seemingly intended.



Postpone proposed

At the meeting with Mbumba the groups proposed that the land conference be postponed until May 2020, so that the land question is not used to gain cheap political points in next year's general election.

They demanded the complete list of all those resettled by 5 October this year, which they said should be shared publicly.

Land reform minister Utoni Nujoma has refused to release this master list during the past six months, despite a legitimate request by Ombudsman John Walters and other groups.

The groups further want the leaked government position paper and progress report to be publicly recalled.

They also want the land reform ministry to prepare a progress report on the implementation of the resolutions taken at the 1991 land conference.

They also demand a complete moratorium on all resettlement programmes until June 2020, which would be the conclusion of the conference date they are proposing.

Rukoro also made a call on all those opposed to the current land conference programme to gather in Windhoek on Sunday and voice their disagreements at the Safari Court Hotel, where the conference is slated to start on Monday.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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