July 15, 2010

Land issue under spotlight

Land issues in Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are said to have a lot of similarities, which need to be addressed timeously. "What happened in Zimbabwe was the issue of growing frustration that was not guided and people took over, thus it is important to provide leadership and timeously address this issue," Deputy Prime Minister, Marco Hausiku, said at the national consultative workshop that is to advise Government on how to bring the administration of all land under one consolidated legal framework.

The initiative followed a realisation by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement of its inability to effectively fulfil its mandate and objectives due to certain legal and policy impediments. "We should succeed in addressing the growing frustration," Hausiku added. He further expressed concern over the slow pace of land reform in the country, noting that efforts to improve agricultural land laws should, as a primary goal, be the acceleration of the land redistribution programme.

Hausiku said Namibia must reach the target it set itself in the Land Acquisition Plan to have five million hectares of commercial agricultural land redistributed through the National Resettlement Programme, as well as the acquisition of 10 million hectares through the Affirmative Action Programme. "We must, at the same time, stay focused on the development and distribution of five million hectares of non-freehold land in communal areas by 2020. The targets are attainable if we stay focused," he said.

However, he reminded the gathering that land reform is a complex issue with many social, political and historical factors and should thus not be expected to be completed overnight. Hausiku further reminded the meeting, which consisted of traditional leaders, chiefs, regional governors, researchers, non-governmental organisations and officials of all line ministries, of the consensus reached at the 1991 Land Conference. "Central to the consensus are the principles of equality in land redistribution, efficiency in the utilisation of land so as to strengthen the economy and the agreement that restitution of ancestral land claims is not possible," he added. Cognisant of the fact that new strategies and initiatives to address various social factors and changing environment are necessary, Hausiku advised the gathering that all initiatives should be made within the framework of the 1991 consensus.

Recently, some Damara, as well Nama-speaking tribes raised their voices demanding their ancestral land. Another concern that the Deputy Prime Minister raised is the issue of productivity, adding that there is a need for productivity, both in communal and commercial areas. According to Hausiku, productivity is affected also in commercial areas because owners are absent and their farms are used for speculating with cattle and not much farming is taking place.

The Deputy Premier also raised concern about farm management, which directly affects productivity. "If facilities such as water infrastructure and fences are falling apart, it will definitely decrease productivity on farms, as well as its carrying capacity," he warned. Hausiku said the land reform programme should make a contribution to the realisation of Vision 2030. "We should develop pragmatic policies to increase efficiency of land to ensure meaningful contribution for a prosperous industrialised Namibia by 2030," Hausiku urged. (New Era, Windhoek)

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