The public debate on Namibia’s resettlement project and its ramifications refuses to recede in the background.
Participants in the second national land conference and those who chose to stay away have one shared view: they cannot believe that Namibia’s land conference was convened and concluded without a comprehensive appraisal of the work of government with regard to resettlement of Namibians on land bought by the state since independence.
This experience played against the backdrop of statements made by both the minister charged with resettlement and his permanent secretary.
The minister had said in a television interview that his ministry cannot resettle poor people because they will not afford to make substantial contribution to economic development. As if this was not enough to cause national consternation, the permanent secretary charged with resettlement was quoted in the local media as having said that he would not release the resettlement records because that would propel the nation to civil war.
Needless to say, these statements were buried in silence from the government.
The situation with regard to resettlement in Namibia has been a source of concern as it had lacked transparency and consistency, leaving the nation to thrive on rumors. In the converse, this is one program whose conception and implementation had instilled hope and optimism from the nation, particularly those whose ancestors had lost land through the German stampede and land alienation. When in the 1991 land conference participants insisted on the restoration of land ownership, Namibia’s first Prime Minister Hage Geingob who aptly steered the contentious national consultations in question, stood his ground and impelled the conference that the new nation state needed time to unbundle how the quest for ancestral land would be managed. In the end there was consensus that the new Namibian government deserved space. Already then, Namibia’s resettlement project was mooted through the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation. This played against the backdrop of the fact that conference had resolved that, while obtaining circumstances of boundary delineations among those who staked the claim on ancestral land were blurred and would thwart full restoration of land ownership, land restitution had to obtain.
But the government’s strongest selling point to conference was that, the new ministry charged with resettlement would facilitate that those Namibians who had lost land through colonial dispossessions be resettled, albeit within the realm of available resources to buy back the land from those who had it. This explained the naming of the project as Resettlement and not Settlement. As we speak, the project is on the spotlight and it is at best riddled by uncertainty. The nation must have waited patiently with guarded optimism, that a comprehensive report would come forth to appraise the nation of the state of affairs in that program. This did not happen. Then the nation’s Ombudsman became restless and demanded a comprehensive report from the relevant ministry, failing which he would proceed to court to compel the ministry to produce the needed report. Still the report did not come and information is that some boxes filled with documents were delivered at the office of the Ombudsman, who still demanded a comprehensive report.
The hope was that the report in question would at least arrive before the opening of the recently concluded second land conference, so that delegates would benefit from the submission for their deliberations and, sadly, this did not happen, and as we speak, the said report is nowhere.
The inability of the ministry charged with resettlement to produce a comprehensive report of the last 28 years of the program implicitly places the government on terms, because charges and counter charges are rampant about what actually happened in that program, and these charges implicate people in high places in the management of the business of state who are normally regarded as people of integrity. This begs the question, why is the state seemingly unfazed when such infringement of responsibility continues to defy wisdom. Has the minister and permanent secretary been called to order and explained what they meant with their statements? Has government taken steps to see to it that there is capacity to produce quality work in the ministry in question or, is it business as usual?
Whatever the current situation, it shall be an understatement to say that the situation pertaining to the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement is a source of serious concern and it is time that the Head of State unravels the conundrum. Also, the work and conduct of the said ministry has created a situation where the public must have lost faith in its integrity and it is time that measures are taken to have the nation understand what transpired in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement for the better part of the last twenty eight years with regard to resettlement. And this is where it becomes imperative for the government to consider instituting a forensic enquiry into the work of the ministry since independence. Suffice it to add that so many Namibians of integrity have passed through this ministry as ministers, deputies and permanent secretaries as well as functionaries in its various units and the continued fog of uncertainty covering the work and record of that ministry will not exonerate anyone of them from potential wrongdoing.
In the final analysis, in the Namibian context, resettlement is a by-product of land dispossession which is a result of colonial dispossession through extermination orders and genocide that culminated into the expropriation of ancestral lands. The Namibian government embarked on the scheme to buy land and bring back onto this land, descendants of people who had lost land. Unless the government shows more interest in managing effectively the business of land and resettlement, the question of ancestral lands will continue to haunt the state and in the end could serve as deal breaker to the much needed national unity in Namibia. To this effect, the Head of State will remain in the spotlight.
2018-10-10 10:11:10 9 months ago