The debate on the four farms bought by a Russian mogul [for the Namibian government] has remained topical for the longest time now and is not diminishing as it is still rampant on social media.
After a number of versions were painted by the Minister of Land Reform, the debate moved on to Cabinet and still, after interventions by both the prime minister and the minister of land reform, still the matter left more questions than answers and the egg remains on the face of Minister Utoni Nujoma.
I do not know whether he needs to add anything or whether the case must now be left with the jury to conclude.
The story of the four Russian farms proves to be messy and no amount of sweet talk will do the trick. It is not the problem of whether it is legally feasible or correct even, it is a matter of it is not morally correct. The government cannot take four farms in one of the most agriculturally lucrative areas, make a deal with someone who does not need, let alone qualify to be given the land and still look the Namibian people in the eyes with some moving target explications.
This transaction has no basis in honorable motives and it was at best, rooted in an error of judgment on the part of [government].
Come to think of it, the impression one gets when one looks on the operations of the minister of land reform, is that he is allowed to run a government within a government and no one is either able or willing to supervise him.
And given some of the controversial statements he made, one gets the impression that he enjoys being the fall guy. First, the permanent secretary of land reform said in public, when media prodded him about the resettlement records, that he was quoted by media as having said that if he was to release the resettlement records the country would explode into civil war.
This was after the minister of land reform had said that, talking about ancestral land is like rekindling thoughts for Bantustan. Then the minister was recorded saying that resettling poor people was not tenable because they will not make meaningful contribution to the economy. And the latest is the twin revelations of the Russian farms and the many well-to-do persons who are settled at the expense of the poor. All these do not work in good stead for the minister and the Ministry of Land Reform and they paint the impression that there is more than meets the eye here.
There are so many charges in the public domain leveled against the Ministry of Land Reform, ranging from farms bought and not disclosed to farms bought and occupied without being advertised for the public to apply. Some of the suspicions hold that many of those on the land boards have managed to settle their next of keen at the expense of more deserving Namibians. And the program of resettlement has become a wholesale settlement project with minimum regard to the fact that, whereas many people have ancestral lands to return to at will, many Namibians hail from families whose ancestors have lost all to colonial atrocities and to genocide. The latest reports in the media create a gloomy picture of senior government officials, governors, company CEOs and even traditional leaders from regions where they live on their ancestral lands, being settled, while many of those whose land was taken live in bondage.
It is against the backdrop of these challenges that my submission is that, the saga of the four Russian farms seems to be the tip of the iceberg. Our land management situation has become a complete puzzle and we need to re-inspect the premises upon which we have based our planning to date with regard to land management and resettlement. And it is here that my submission remains that we must call upon the Namibian government to institute a forensic audit into the management of land and the application of the Resettlement Project since independence. Given the sensitivity of these matters, it is equally important for Namibia’s state organs charged with public protection: Ombudsman, Anti-corruption and Auditor General, to develop interest in these matters.
Namibia’s land reform promises to be the potential deal breaker for national unity and this deserves to be handled tenderly.