WINDHOEK - Swanu of Namibia has vowed to table a motion in the National Assembly that a relevant parliamentary standing committee investigate and provide a full list of the beneficiaries of the resettlement programme since its inception to date.
Swanu parliamentarian Usutuaije Maamberua yesterday said if the government fails to release the controversial land resettlement list within this week, then he will table the motion by next Tuesday in the National Assembly.
“It is good Cde President [Hage Geingob] has demanded the notorious list to be availed soonest. If by next Tuesday morning the complete list is not made publicly available, I undertake to give notice in the National Assembly to table a motion to demand the ministry of lands and the government to release the list, and for an audit to be carried out to the fullest extent of the resettlement programme. I am doing this on behalf of the people and I have to give an opportunity to the public to be informed beforehand what’s going to happen,” Maamberua said.
His comments come days after the recent second national land conference ended where President Geingob directed the Ministry of Land Reform together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to carry out an urgent assessment of the status of resettlement farms and what it will require to improve productivity.
Geingob also directed the full resettlement list to be completed and shared with the public.
In an attempt allay public discontent over the land resettlement programme, the government resolved and adopted to develop and maintain a database containing names of beneficiaries to avoid multiple land ownership within one region and between different regions at the expense of landless Namibians.
This follows months of public concern including from opposition parties and civil society groups, who have criticised the resettlement programme and demanded the release of the names of beneficiaries.
Civil society organisations had avowed not to attend the recent second national land conference if the government failed to release relevant documents, including the controversial master list of resettlement beneficiaries.
It’s against this background, under resolution 15 of the just-ended land conference, that the government adopted to fill the existing gaps by developing and maintaining a database containing names of beneficiaries to ensure fairness and accountability.
Prior to the land conference, a leaked list of names of beneficiaries went viral on social media.
Government officials, among them former ministers, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries and directors, dominate the list of resettled farmers, according to a list of beneficiaries.
At the time, official opposition party Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani, during a meeting with the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS) farmers, had criticised the resettlement programme, saying it was not fair because the list of beneficiaries was dominated by “people who can farm commercially”.
Venaani called for the resettlement programme to be relooked to be more transparent and more inclusive. “We are aware that there are judges on that list, people who earn more than N$1,7 million a year – there are directors and permanent secretaries, and even deputy ministers. Now if we are giving farms to people who can afford them, how will the young people enter the market?” he said.
There has also been criticism that resettled farmers just let their farming units stand idle.
The Ministry of Land Reform has also expressed concerned that some people who got farms through the government’s resettlement programme are too old to make a productive impact and were simply looking for retirement villages by applying for resettlement farms.
The list of resettlement programme beneficiaries, mainly compiled from advertisements placed in various media between 2011 and January 2018, shows that several top government officials, including deputy ministers, permanent secretaries, and directors have been resettled across the country on 99-year leaseholds.
But Maamberua commended Geingob for his prompt response in moving to appoint the commission on ancestral land rights.
However, he cautioned that to come up with terms of reference for a commission is a mammoth task that needs broad input and extensive expertise.
“Since we are [dealing with] private property and it is also the first time we would advise to devote enough time with credible independent inputs to develop thorough terms of reference for the commission,” he advised.