‘Open-minded’ conference kicks off

Home National ‘Open-minded’ conference kicks off

WINDHOEK – Contrary to claims that some key topics were supressed ahead of the land conference, leading to mass withdrawals of some invited delegates, those very topics will actually form the backbone of this week’s proceedings.

President Hage Geingob, in fact, suggested yesterday that the topics must be thoroughly discussed, vowing to extend the conference beyond the five allocated days if this is what it would take to reach national consensus on land.

Key topics under discussion include ancestral land rights and restitution, which some traditional leaders had demanded as a precondition to attending the conference.

Other topics under the microscope are resettlement criteria, land expropriation, urban land reform and the removal of the veterinary cordon fence, which for decades has prevented farmers north of it from accessing lucrative beef markets such as the European Union. Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who is chairing the proceedings, moved to dismiss suggestions that the outcome of the conference, described as a ‘sham’ by its detractors and sections of the media, was predetermined.

In particular, official opposition Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), in justifying its withdrawal last week, said it would not be used to legitimise a conference with a pre-determined outcome.

The prime minister, who has been involved in the preparation of the all-important conference, yesterday slammed such allegations.

“I wish to categorically state that government comes to this conference with an open mind to receive inputs from this conference and to work towards consensus building on this very important issue,” she told a fully packed hall consisting of delegates from the width and breadth of the country.

“We, therefore, encourage all delegates to share their honest views on all aspects forming part of the agenda of this conference and help us to arrive at a common position on this pressing national issue,” she said.

She noted that government looks forward with great anticipation to the presentations from their special invited guests, which she said would greatly enrich the deliberations and outcomes of this conference.

To coordinate the preparation for the land conference, she said, government established a high-level committee chaired by herself with membership from the non-state actors and relevant public institutions.  

The membership of the high-level committee includes representatives from civil society and community-based organisations, religious organisations, labour movements and the farmer’s unions.

Others included were business representatives, traditional authorities, genocide committees, relevant public institutions, academic institutions and; individual persons selected on the basis of their expertise and experience on land and related matters.

According to her, the diversity of the committee was aimed at ensuring inclusivity.  
She thanked the members of the high-level committee and the technical committee for their useful inputs into the preparations for this land conference.

She maintained that this conference was preceded by extensive consultations with stakeholders through workshops conducted in all the 14 regions of the country at which the implementation of the land reform programme was discussed, and regions formulated their inputs into the deliberations of the conference, which will be presented by their representatives. 

She said the reports from the regional workshops have been posted on websites alongside the government report on the implementation of the land reform programme and other related documents relevant to land reform. 

“I should further note that these regional consultative workshops supplemented an earlier round of regional consultations that was conducted in 2017. The purpose for the second round of consultations was to supplement the inputs from the first round of consultations by reaching out to stakeholders that may not have been covered during the first round of consultations and also to consider additional issues that were not covered under the first round of consultations,” she stated. 

This she says follows the call made to government by some stakeholders for further consultations to be held before the holding of the conference and in line with President Hage Geingob’s clarion call for inclusivity as per the Harambee Prosperity Plan. 

She indicated that the government has, therefore, extensively consulted the public for their input into the preparation for this conference and has ensured deep reflections on issues pertaining to the agenda of this conference.