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Pushing the land dispossessed to the fringes

2018-09-28  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Pushing the land dispossessed to the fringes
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Is and has the land conference been on the right track and can it eventually produce the intended outcome and with the requisite input of all relevant stakeholders?

One cannot help posing this pertinent question in view of the groundswell unhappiness and lack of confidence in next week’s land conference, especially by what one could regard leading members of the civic society and, more importantly, leaders of the land dispossessed communities.

Just as one group of civil society players were to announce distancing themselves from the land conference on Wednesday, a media conference had to be postponed at the eleventh hour until the group had had an audience with Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba on the same day.

But it seems that the audience with the VP came and went with little impact in terms of boosting the confidence of the various stakeholders that met him.

Thus until the various issues of concern to civil society are addressed - and time is of essence in this regard with just a day left to the conference on Monday - it is the considered opinion of the civil society that under the circumstances, the conference is better postponed.

This would allow for a proper and transparent organisation of the conference, perhaps by an independent body, because government has thus far proven extremely wanting in this regard.
Postponing the conference is the most prudent thing to do under the circumstances, before resources are spent on the indaba that may not worth any cent spent.

It has been obvious that the preparation of the conference has been flawed from Day 1. 
Central to this failure is the programmatic non-recognition of ancestral land rights claim. Officialdom has been categorical that for national reconciliation and nation building, the conference shall not entertain ancestral land rights claims. 

This means against the best interest of the land dispossessed, ancestral land rights claim is a no-go area for the government reasons only known to them.

As far as the civil society and land disposed communities are concerned, there cannot be an informed land reform process without the consideration of ancestral land. 

The audience with the VP on Wednesday, belated as it was, was not the first by civil society to try and give the land conference some respectability, credibility and legitimacy. 
Most recently severally and separately, various traditional leaders and non-governmental organisations wrote Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila as convener of the land conference to raise several substantive and procedural issues. 

Foremost amongst them were the ancestral land rights claim and its status at the upcoming land conference, especially the fact that it was not among the thematic issues discussed in the plenary. 
There was also the vital issue of representation, with representatives of the land dispossessed in particular feeling reduced to mere spectators.

Initially it seemed that many of the issues raised by civil society were duly noted and, in good faith, to be taken good care of in terms of the necessary changes, and the elevation of ancestral land rights claim to a thematic level. Civil society has not been the only group to raise issues with the land conference but it seems those at the helm of the event have not been on tap to take note of such concerns, all of which have been constructive in their content and nature.

But now the die seems to be cast with the civil society categorical and adamant that the conference must be postponed. But this has not been granted, which shows some bad faith on the part of the organisers.
Once cannot predict the ultimate given the unfolding situation of a substantial section of civic society refusing to be mere pawns in an otherwise an exercise of which the final outcomes are predetermined, but surely some elements need to account to the country as to what went wrong.  

A document has been circulating about the so-called position of the government, which for that matter some senior members of the government have been denying any knowledge of. This document, with the Ministry of Land Reform as its alleged origin, indicates the pre-determinism of the land conference outcome. More than anything else, this must have been the last straw as far as civil society is concerned in legitimising what they deem an illegitimate process.    

2018-09-28  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

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