Constitution amendment needed to address colonial land injustices entrenched in it
Kae MaÞunÿu-Tjiparuro GOBABIS – Given the unjust colonial dispossession of land leaving affected communities landless till today, the land question cannot be resolved with current laws as such injustices are entrenched in the Namibian Constitution. Hence the need for a referendum to amend Article 131 of the Constitution, recommends the working group of Ovaherero and Ovambanderu traditional authorities at the Omaheke Region’s two-day consultations on land which ended last Friday. Article 131 entrenches fundamental rights and freedoms and reads: “No repeal or amendment of any of the provisions of Chapter 3 hereof, in so far as such repeal or amendment diminishes or detracts from the fundamental rights and freedoms contained and defined in that Chapter, shall be permissible under this Constitution, and no such purported repeal or amendment shall be valid or have any force or effect.” Touching on ancestral land rights and restitution the group notes people were removed from ancestral land and this resulted in the collapse of traditional governance structures. While there is currently ancestral land in the country, no restitution to displaced communities has taken place. Hence the need to do research to identify ancestral land. The group in line with this also suggests the setting up of a committee to establish the validity of ancestral land claims. Further, it proposes that the government expropriate heritage sites for handing over to traditional authorities under whose jurisdiction such sites fall. On the same issue of ancestral land the working group on farmers unions and associations and cooperatives equally notes the large-scale dispossession of land which led to massive internal and external displacement of populations. Despite its sensitivity as it has been purported to be, the land issue must be faced squarely and boldly in formulating solutions thereto. Thus, those who lost land must receive preferential treatment in land which has been expropriated. For this, Article 16  and  of the Constitution dealing with property must be amended to enable expropriation without compensation. The farmers associations’ group notes that the willing seller, willing buyer arrangement is voluntary and thus any farm owner may or may not offer his/her land for sale and resultantly land owners have not been willing to sell land and have been inflating land prices, making it impossible for blacks to buy land. Where it has been available for sale it has mostly been depleted. If expropriation without compensation fails, then anyone with a farm exceeding 3,500 hectares must be taxed as a disincentive for anyone to hold on to it. Further the group proposes a statutory body to control land prices. It notes that the National Resettlement Programme has been a failure due to lack of essential services such as training and unrealistic selection criteria. It thus recommends a review of the selection criteria and mentorship and training for the resettled farmers, including financial training. The 99-year leasehold must also be reviewed and reduced to 15-16 years with an option of buying. Resettlement farms must not be given for free but that a minimum be paid after a grace period of 10-15 years. Regional councillors must be part of a board selecting those to be resettled and 80% of those to be resettled must be from the area where the farm is selected for resettlement. For the TAs group such ratio should be 70% to 30%. Those resettled must be given full rights to utilise wildlife and other natural resources on the farm and when those resettled do not have enough livestock, they must be allowed to sublet a portion of the farm. Beneficiaries of resettlement or those buying farms through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS) must not be allowed access to communal grazing. The veterinary cordon fence (CVF) must not be removed due to animal diseases but can be shifted towards the borders with Angola and Zambia. Other issues spotlighted by these two groups and others were absentee landlords and foreigner-owned land.
New Era Reporter
2018-07-31 09:32:36 6 months ago