WINDHOEK - National Youth Council Representative Chairperson JP van der Westhuizen who was about four years old when the first National Land Conference took place in 1991, says land is the ultimate instrument for economic emancipation. He made the assertion in his statement at the 2nd National Land Conference currently underway in the capital.
Van der Westhuizen says the decisions taken at the first land conference affects the majority of the Namibian population today. “Land is therefore critically important for development,” he says, pointing out the urgent need to come up with solutions to enable the citizenry to have access to land.
“Without land, one cannot produce food or other products that would be needed in order to earn an income,” he says, adding that “without land, one cannot have decent shelter that would enable one to contribute meaningfully to the economy”.
There is a need to ensure the affordability of urban land by all citizenry by placing controls on the ever-increasing prices of urban land. Van der Westhuizen stresses that more capital needs to be availed to local authorities from central government to service more land for the citizens, especially its largest population, the young people that continue to migrate to urban areas for education, better jobs and better livelihoods. “The lack of adequate and affordable housing places young people at a disadvantage that although they are employed they are most likely to never own a house at the current trend,” he notes.
He further advises local authorities to partner with young people to jointly come up with solutions that can help address the unaffordability of urban land. He also cites the need to come up with measures to address the housing shortage that is afflicting many students at tertiary institutions. Van der Westhuizen observes that most students are forced to rent at exorbitant prices, putting pressure on their parents to live in debt but this also gives rise to many students living in crowded and inhospitable conditions. “The leaders of now and tomorrow are being set up to live in debt and most likely be affected by ills that could have been avoided by one act: better affordable accommodation,” he stresses.
Van der Westhuizen suggests that the land conference set up a commission on ancestral land claims that would be responsible for defining ancestral land rights and identify historical geographic boundaries and deal with cases of restitution.
“The commission’s terms of reference can be done through consultations with stakeholders on all levels,” he says, adding that the youth agenda is to move in the right direction as a collective, and “collective being the underlined word as there can be no decision that affects the youth being made without the youth”.