WINDHOEK – Although attendance to the land conference underway in Windhoek was beyond President Hage Geingob’s expectations, yesterday he appealled to those shunning the landmark event to join the proceedings.
Several traditional authorities, non-governmental bodies, pressure groups and opposition parties withdrew en masse from the conference, citing a myriad reasons.
Predetermined outcomes of the conference and relegation of certain topics to the peripheries of the event are some of the allegations peddled against government ahead of the conference.
Yesterday government moved to dismiss such claims as false, saying it welcomed all input in an open-minded manner.
But despite the withdrawals, President Geingob yesterday expressed satisfaction with the overwhelming attendance recorded on the opening day.
Addressing delegates yesterday, Geingob, who spoke candidly mostly off his prepared speech, said he was delighted at the diverse representation, notably the high number of young delegates at the conference.
“I am pleased to note the diverse representation of stakeholders and appreciate the notable number of young delegates in our midst who have become vocal champions of emerging land issues,” he said.
He said as future custodians and implementers of the outcomes, young people will undoubtedly inherit the resolutions from the ‘watershed’ conference.
The head of state said although invited, those who have decided to exercise their democratic right not to participate in this consultation, do so within the enjoyment of rights in a constitutional state.
“Those delegates who have been invited but withdrew their participation, remain welcome and I will be here throughout the conference, availing myself to engage those who may have misunderstandings on issues,” he said. Geingob said it was apparent there have been key misunderstandings that certain issues are not going to be discussed at the conference, such as ancestral land rights.
“Quite the opposite,” he thundered.
“I have called for all relevant matters to be discussed.”
Geingob said the colonial wars that ensued following the arrival of German troops and eventually culminated in the infamous of the Ovaherero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908, dispossessed Namibians of their land, by force and without compensation.
“The armed liberation struggle was launched, under the auspices of Swapo to restore the dignity of the oppressed people of Namibia, which includes access to land,” he said.
He said the settler colonies of Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe faced the unique challenge of white people, of foreign descent, settling in these localities.
Subsequently, Geingob said, their children were born, and “by soil and blood”, are descendants of the land.
He said the fundamental issue is inequality, which according to him classified Namibia as the second most unequal society in the world, after South Africa.
“We also share a burning land issue and racialised distribution of land resources with South Africa,” he said, adding that this comes from a common history of colonial dispossession. Geingob said what they also agree to is that the status quo will not be allowed to continue.
“When the majority is economically excluded, it poses a real threat. It is in all our interest, particularly the ‘haves’, to ensure a drastic reduction in inequality, by supporting the redistributive model required to alter our skewed economic structure. We should all be cognisant of the fact that this is ultimately an investment in peace,” he said.
Geingob said concerns by Namibians around the slow pace of land reform, and those of the landless, were legitimate and warrant those at the conference to have this ‘difficult conversation’ and resolve these issues.
2018-10-02 09:09:10 7 months ago