WINDHOEK – Scores of recognised and unrecognised traditional leaders of the Nama and the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu communities have petitioned Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila for the ancestral land issue to be a ‘thematic’ agenda item at the second national land conference taking place in two weeks’ time.
Traditional leaders, even those that never saw eye-to-eye for years due to internal traditional squabbles, last week Friday secretly met at a Windhoek hotel and put their differences aside - perhaps temporarily - to form a united front in their quest for ancestral land claims.
The gathering, attended by amongst others Ovaherero Paramount Chief Advocate Vekuii Rukoro, Chief Tjinaani Maharero of the Maharero Traditional Authority, Chief Kilus Munyuku III Nguvauva of the Ovambanderu Traditional Authority,
Chief Johannes Isaak of the /Hai-/Khaua Traditional Authority and 29 others, New Era understands was initiated by the Ovambanderu Acting Chief Gerson Katjirua and Swanu MP Usutuaije Maamberua.
The letter to the PM, titled “Land Dispossessed Namibians” and signed by Maharero on behalf of others, reads in part: “The biggest shortcoming is that the agenda of the second national land conference does not take the issue of the ancestral land into consideration, because ancestral land is not at the thematic level, and is thus not substantive agenda item.”
“It is not clear [as] to how the structure of the organising committee was set up. In particular, we are kindly requesting that the high level committee be transparent and inclusive as much as possible,” read the letter, dated 14 September.
In its position paper this week, the Swapo Party Elders Council (SPEC) said the issue of ancestral land should not be entertained as it would only promote discontent.
Swapo senior citizens said ancestral land should be discussed against the background of national economic development.
“Namibia’s economy depends on land resources, utilised for the benefit of the country through agriculture and mining,” said SPEC, adding that marine resources and manufacturing are also part of the factors that sustain the economy.
Traditional leaders also asked Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to allow traditional authorities’ position papers to be presented by their technical experts.
They requested the PM to make sure that the final agenda of the land conference reaches invitees at least two weeks before the commencement of the anticipated gathering, for their perusal and necessary inputs.
“The land question is inextricably linked to genocide, and thus a discussion of the land issue must be done in the context of the genocide in Namibia,” the letter further read.
The chiefs feel the discussions on ancestral land rights at the land conference should eventually lead to a resolution on the restitution of ancestral land rights in principle.
“The 1991 firsts national land conference resolved that ‘given the complexities in redressing ancestral land claims, restitution of such claims in full is impossible’. Thus, the 1991 land conference did not dismiss ancestral land claims, but merely stated that restitution in full was impossible, mainly due to overlapping claims,” reads their letter.
The tribal chiefs said they have proposals to address the overlapping claims, based on the experiences of other countries that have had the same problems, and formulas have been designed to take care of the overlapping claims.