WINDHOEK - Lessons of the Second National Land Conference must be a caution to land owners about the importance to share, said President Hage Geingob when closing the conference on Friday after five days of intense deliberations on issues related to land.
The conference addressed issues such as the willing seller, willing buyer concept of acquiring land for resettlement, ancestral land rights and restitution, urban land delivery, the economic viability of resettlement farms, the role of the Agricultural Bank of Namibia in land reform, challenges in land allocation, administration by traditional authorities and communal land boards and the development of communal areas.
At the end of the last day before the official closure by the president, the conference adopted resolutions on five areas. This is the Commercial Land Reform Programmes looking altogether into 21 subareas including land acquisition on the principle of willing seller and willing buyer, a principle that the conference discarded altogether. Under this area the conference also looked at the expropriation of agricultural land, resolving to take away land owned by foreign nationals with just compensation. The other area on which the conference zeroed in on is Communal Land Reform Programmes.
Foremost among the resolutions in this regard is the removal of the veterinary cordon fence with the conference resolving that the government gradually removes it mindful of the various factors at play. Under this area the conference also looked at the role of traditional authorities and land boards, resolving that authorities and boards continue with their functions in this regard and for the government to continue supporting them to ensure effective tenure rights in communal areas.
Urban Land Reform with a special focus, among others, on urban land and housing prices also came in the spotlight. In this regard it resolved on the subsidisation of low-income housing and essential services to increase the affordability of housing in the lower income bracket housing category. Another aspect under this area that enjoyed special focus of the conference is rent control legislation with a resolution that the Rent Act be implemented and regulated to control rent prices.
The third area of focus is Land Tax and Evaluation System, with the thinking being that land taxation must be used as an instrument to enhance land reform. In this regard it resolved that progressive land tax be implemented. In the same vein in this regard and under this area the conference looked at the agricultural land price, resolving that such price be regulated.
Lastly, and perhaps beyond the expectation of many, Ancestral Land Rights and Restitution attracted the interest of many, if not the preponderance attention at the conference and was extensively discussed and at the same time given its apparent emotive and sensitive nature, ensuring for some passionate contributions from various conference attendants.
On this score the conference resolved on the establishment of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Ancestral Land. It will commission a survey/study to identify communities that have lost ancestral land; establish the sizes of ancestral land lost and the boundaries; incorporate a special provision in the resettlement criteria to fairly address the situation of the most affected (land dispossessed); generate a common understanding /consensus on the definition of ancestral land rights and restitution; and commission a study to determine the limit of the period from which claims for ancestral land should start and end pre- and post-independence.
The president also cautioned for competency and fairness in the implementation of the resolutions pertaining to land, assuring that this time around it cannot and it shall not be business as usual as far as land reform is concerned. “Significant changes will take place after this Second National Land Conference,” determined the president, noting the need for challenging mindsets, the streamlining of processes and assured political will among all political parties. “To play politics with the land issue is to play with the lives of our people,” the president cautioned.