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Ancestral land: A call for robust debate

2018-09-21  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Ancestral land: A call for robust debate
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One cannot help but get the impression that to some, ancestral land rights is a contagious disease to avoid, shun and steer away from.

So much to the extent that even discussing it is a daring risky undertaking.  Some even went to the extent of campaigning for a total blacklisting of the subject at the upcoming second national land conference. 
The view that ancestral land should not be discussed is getting louder although the reasons for this standpoint remain largely flimsy and, at best, uniformed.

There is also a contradiction by critics of ancestral land claims that the struggle, starting with the colonial resistance movement against German imperial forces, and subsequently the liberation struggle against the occupation of apartheid South Africa, was for the return of the land. 

The embodiment of displacements and dispossessions of Namibians was from ancestral lands, meaning land the indigenes occupied before the entry of occupying colonialism. Yet, in the wisdom of some, ancestral land should not be discussed. It defies logic.

Something, either a deliberate political or tribal hegemonic intent at sabotaging the legitimate claim of those with ancestral land rights claim, is at play.

Those, or there is dangerous ignorance among this group pf critics.
This is despite the due recognition that during the colonial times, Namibians were not only denied and deprived of basic human rights and freedoms, but equally alienated from means of production, foremost land.

It is an undeniable fact that indeed the colonialists were driven by nothing else but an insatiable quest for the acquisition of the various means of production, among them land.

This was not virgin, uninhabited and unoccupied land but was inhabited and occupied by the indigenes whom colonisers found in this country. To occupy this land, which was their uppermost motive for colonising the country, they had to drive the occupants off this land by all means possible, including issuing extermination orders against the occupants of these lands. 

Hence the genocide of Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama, in what became the first genocide of the 21st century. Land was at the centre of this genocide. 

Yet one hears murmurs of uneasiness if not total displeasure and unfounded fears that the ancestral land issue should not be discussed at the upcoming land conference. 

If it cannot be denied that the indigenes were displaced and dispossessed of land, why can such displacements and dispossessions not be discussed? More so, how can Namibia, that prides itself on many international platforms as an embodiment of democracy, not allow robust debates on issues of national interest such as ancestral land rights? 
We cannot cow into undemocratic inclinations of keeping from the national agenda an important and critical subject as this.

What is happening to the rights of the indigenous people, under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People of 2007 and the Namibian constitution, especially Article 21 on fundamental freedoms?
This Article is about freedom of expression and conscience - meaning those believing in ancestral land rights claims have all the rights and freedoms to voice their belief and convictions at the upcoming conference. 

The constitution in this regard is compounded by the presidential dictum of the proverbial “Namibian House” and that no one should left outside it. 

Worryingly, even those who should know better seem hesitant when it comes to the right and freedom of those advocating for ancestral land rights to speak for themselves.

They strangely ideologically and politically seem to be wanting in the basic understanding of the principle of ancestral land rights, which seen in its proper context, cannot be anything but affirmative in nature and intent. 
Many, due to convenient political and ideological bankruptcy, deliberately twist ancestral land rights claim to mean the restitution of such lands to the claimants. 

What can be far from the truth than this deliberate misinterpretation of ancestral land rights claim. Essentially, and for now, the call and plea is simply for recognition that indeed historically and politically there are Namibians who were displaced from the land, and dispossessed of it. 

Once this principle has been established, what is next is another matter. But the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous People can be instructive, if Namibia choses the reconciliatory path being trumpeted by some alarmists. 
It says, amongst others, that “indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.”

Advocates of ancestral land rights claims, needless to say, also have their work cut out in terms of sending home the message of deciphering the camouflaged ignorance on ancestral land by would-be detractors. 

2018-09-21  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

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