Open letter to the President … addressing the land question

Home Focus Open letter to the President … addressing the land question

For three decades after independence, native communities across Namibia have continued to demonstrate resilience and resistance in non-violent efforts to acquire land from the state. 

To date, political and corporate greed as well as government policies have further disadvantaged the benefits for the common man. The country is facing issues of persistent gross inequality and the worsening crisis of state finance as well as an unhealthy economic outlook.
The government has failed the nation at addressing the issue of land and there seems to be no sign or hope to resolve this national outcry with our current economic position; the recently tabled budget by the newly appointed finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi, in relation to our system of willing-buyer, willing-seller does not seem to be aggressive in addressing the land problem judging from the sectoral allocations. 
The N$72.8 billion budget for the fiscal year 2020/2021 is aimed at saving lives, saving livelihoods, saving jobs and income and finally, placing Namibia in a stronger position to thrive in the foreseeable future; however, the budget does not critically speak to the current, consistent and problematic issues. 

The budget with a shortfall of N$21.4 billion is marked as the biggest in Namibian history, and is an anachronism as the government’s sources of revenue are set to significantly decrease. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water, Land Reform received N$1.3 billion, a decrease from N$1.9 billion from the 2019/2020 fiscal year of which N$929.2 million (increased from N$469 million from the previous fiscal year) is earmarked for water infrastructure refurbishment and development programmes, thus implying that only N$370. 8 million is left to cater for the entire sector. 
The sectoral allocation differences as compared to the previous fiscal year do not address to unlock the greater potential for an actively dynamic, growing and employment-creating agricultural sector in Namibia. 

The government’s revenue from personal income tax and indirect taxes are set to decrease by more than 20%, this alternatively puts pressure on the government to dig deeper in citizens’ pockets through taxation. Minister Shiimi further informed that the Namibian economy is projected to contract by 6.6%, despite revenue from taxation; this is a clear indication that the government needs to find robust economic, social and agricultural means to generate revenue and recuperate the current economic state to a healthy economic status. The administration sector received an amount of N$1.7 billion for Vote 17: Urban and Rural Development Ministry to support, among others, increasing provision for sanitation infrastructure, land servicing and bulk water supply services, sewage and electricity. 
The thoughtfulness for land servicing is a great initiative provided that land will be given to the common man.
According to the United Nation’s State of Commodity Dependence 2016 report, Namibia is ranked third in the region for relying heavily on import commodities. 
It is worrisome that the country spent massive amounts of money on importing basic needs that would have cost less to manufacture at home. 

In an article dated 18 June 2018, University of Namibia lecturer and economist Omu Kakujaha-Matundu stressed the importance of industrial development and stated that import dependency negatively impacts the economy as it leads to a trade deficit, skills deficit, and increases joblessness and youth unemployment. 

Kakujaha-Matundu further pointed out that Namibia should identify areas in which it has competitive advantage and export those goods and services in order to offset the trade deficit. The economic expert further pointed out that importing more goods means exporting jobs, and supporting the manufacturing industries of foreign countries. 

Moreover, there is a need to invest in the promotion and support of the manufacturing sector, especially small and medium enterprises to add value to raw materials to ensure that the economy enhances efforts that add value to the raw materials before exportation.
Land redistribution is the most important component of land reform. Namibia needs to adopt a Homestead Land Act that will make provision for land to be given to inhabitants at a cost of no larger than N$1 500 per plot for every inhabitant above the age of 21. 
The Homestead Land Act would be another revenue generating platform for the government in multiple ways that will provide inhabitants with public land or unused communal/farmland. 

In exchange, inhabitants acquiring the land will be expected to pay the N$1 500 upon acquiring land and a continuous N$50 fee per month for the next 15 years before they can claim complete ownership. 
Unused communal land should be awarded to aspiring farmers and manufacturers provided that they produce large sums of food basics and necessities enough to supply the country. We need to massively invest in agriculture and innovation. 

Securing 500 000 plots for inhabitants will not finish the available land in the country. Namibia is vulnerable to corruption and this has led to many loopholes; and we need to find amicable ways by which the government must cover those loopholes for the economy by generating policies that will conquer wealth inequalities efficiently and sufficiently. We have so many aspiring entrepreneurs such as Mshasho Apparel, Shilongo Leather and many other local clothing brands such as Thumbs-up Investments, Feelingz Nation, Gweri Socks, Rise-Up Africa but are limited to exposure because there is no platform provided for them.

Unutilised buildings or facilities should be used for productive purposes to help boost overall national output and indirectly address the unemployment problem in Namibia.  For instance, the government can consider using the Ramatex building as a manufacturing plant where local manufacturers come and get production on the run.  The government must encourage and support the production and consumption of local goods to help stimulate our economy. We have more than 700 000 pupils in schools, where a school like Gammams Primary School produces their own uniform. There are so many tailors out there that can do the job in large quantities and enough for our learners all over the country.  All our school shoes are purchased from South Africa – the more we  import from South Africa the more we grow the South African economy.

If for example the government allows all school-going children to wear Shilongo Leather shoes and all the uniforms to be produced at home, it is another huge cut on importation of basics.  In such a scenario, where the government allows local shoes and uniform for schools, the government will have to subsidize such entities to increase production. 
These are no seasonal demands so eventually, such manufacturers will create employment, improve standard of living and enjoy economies of scale and simultaneously increase growth at home. 

The government must invest in human capital development so that we can have capacity to be involved in the production of this basic stuff and only import a few of the goods we don’t have capacity to produce. 
With the current economic status, we need to grow our home industries and take pride in our home-made products. 
Toilet paper, eggs, potatoes, onions, toothpicks, fruits and chicken farming, to mention a few, should be our top priorities to produce because these are part of everyday basics. 
Tax from such production is another revenue generation for the government.
With volatile and escalating house prices, what good does it make to have idle and unproductive land at the cost of the common man renting all his life? 

Pull-factors and push factors have led to migrants flocking to the city for greener pastures because better opportunities are not, if not all, decentralised to secondary towns and urban land is left to be purchased by the elites? 
Otherwise what justice do the policies and laws serve in terms of Article 16 (1) that recognises the right of all persons to acquire, own and dispose of all forms of immovable and movable property in any part of Namibia, individually or in association with others, and to bequeath their property to their heirs or legatees, as well as Article 16(2) that authorises the state to expropriate property in the public interest subject to the payment of just compensation, in accordance with requirements and procedures to be determined by an Act of Parliament. 
It is evident that the sooner the government does not act, the more the youth are reminded that colonisation is modernised and it’s ongoing, with native lands still unoccupied, and the youth will continue to retaliate when exerting their civic rights and democratic participation.