November 21, 2002

Discussion on land for the privileged

The Namibian Ministry of Lands says there is nothing wrong with highly paid officials receiving land under Government's resettlement scheme.

Frans Tsheehama, Permanent Secretary in the Lands Ministry, said on November 20 that the income of people being resettled played no role in the decision to give them land. "It doesn't matter," he emphasised. He was reacting to a report in the newspaper The Namibian from Wednesday, November 20, which named senior Government leaders as among people who had received land for free.

The criteria for getting farm land from Government are so wide that any Namibian - rich or poor, white or black - could qualify under the land reform programme. To clear the first and main hurdle, applicants need only show the Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation that they are Namibians "who have been socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged by past discriminatory laws or practices" and are landless. Tsheehama said: "We do not say that because your colour is this or because your age is this, because you are beautiful this is what you deserve. All the Namibians stand equal before the law."

The newspaper report said an army general, a regional governor and a permanent secretary had been given pieces of land this year. Four farmworkers and their families face eviction from a farm on which Vitalis Ankama, Higher Education Permanent Secretary, has been resettled in a case that echoes the recent Kalkpan controversy. Tsheehama claimed the report was "out of context and not well informed". He added that the workers' plight had nothing to do with his Ministry and it was for Ankama and other new owners of the farm to answer on that.

The threat to evict the workers, who have lived on the land - recently taken over by Ankama - for years, emerged in the National Assembly this week. Congress of Democrats lawmaker, Tsudao Gurirab, complained about the silence surrounding the workers' plight at farm Anias-Nord in the Khomas Region. He contrasted the situation with the recent furore that greeted a Rhodesian-born farm manager's attempts to boot workers off Kalkpan farm near Gobabis, where they had lived for several decades.

Said Tsheehama: "I wonder why you people are doing this. We have resettled so many people of different statures and standing in the society but you have never bothered to say anything. When we are struggling with the land here, you do not write about it, but when an individual from the previously disadvantaged gets something, you would want to make it a story," he charged. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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