Apparent from our previous piece is that most of the resolutions reflected dealt with activities in commercial areas. This part will therefore in the main be dedicated to resolutions dealing with communal area matters.
Access to communal land
The Conference resolved that all citizens should be able to settle anywhere in the country, provided that they have regard to the customs applicable in the host community, stressing that priority should be given to the landless. Assessment in this regard should be possible with the collation of data from traditional authorities and Communal Land Boards, to gauge whether the host communities have truly been receptive to the land needy approaching them. Anecdotal evidence does however confirm that Namibians have been able to settle in areas hitherto reserved for a specific language group. This practice has been aided by inter-tribal marriages which have contributed to acceptance of the other, harmony and unity in more ways than one. Further, labourers who come to search for work in communal areas, often than not, settle permanently and start farming activities of their own after a period of time. These developments have turned some communal areas into diverse settlements. However, for the greater part, the commonage is still determined by language and tribal background.
The Conference stressed the need for differentiated protection of the lands rights of disadvantaged communities, such as the San and the people living with disability. It is not clear how the implementation of this resolution was envisaged. The resolution notwithstanding, there have been reports of other communities having infiltrated the Tsumkwe Constituency of the Otjozondjupa Region at will and seemingly requiring no invitation and/or permission. If there was any guide to assist the implementation of this resolution, such provisions would have been invoked with relative ease. The Etosha National Park and the //Hai/om remains a hot potato, one would have thought that the protection of rights should extend to the indigenous tribe asserting its rights on sections of the park. This is certainly one that earns minimal points, if any at all.
Game conservation and farmers’ rights
The Conference appears to have given communal farmers the green light to effectively protect their crops and livestock against wild animals. The resolution makes no reference to the applicable legal framework (statutes and customs). However, in view of the successes recorded with the establishment of conservancies in communal areas and the reported improved animal numbers in those areas, the anticipated protection must have regard for that. A lot has been said about human-wildlife conflicts and enhanced compensation for victims has been mooted. We reluctantly have to pass this one, but stress that it appears to have been negatively structured.
Payment for land
The resolution barred any payment for household land, allowing for payment in respect of land used for business purposes. It further provided that all payment should be made to the government and not the traditional authority hosting the business people. There have been reports regarding the sale of communal plots but it seems challenging to gauge the extent of such sale. The reports suggest that in most cases the sale is not sanctioned by the relevant traditional authorities but rather individuals who at times abuse their powers. However, in the Kavango East and West, reports of money exchanging hands have been reported in the media in the recent past, at times involving well-heeled individuals. Going by these reports, it appears the practice is still rife and therefore the resolution is not entirely complied with.
Rights of women
The Conference sought to entrench women’s rights as contained in the Namibian Constitution. The phasing out of marital power in marriages is testimony of the efforts made to consolidate women equality. However, some customary norms and practices remain inhibiting, where windows are driven off properties by families on the passing of their husbands. We are not aware of any special low interest loans aimed at fast-tracking land ownership amongst women. An average score in this regard shall be in order.
Land allocation and administration
The Conference called for the articulation of roles, powers and duties of the Government and traditional authorities through a law and further provide for the establishment of land boards. It seems the Communal Land Reform Act 2002 (Act No. 5 of 2002) has its origin here and therefore without belabouring this resolution, full marks should be granted accordingly.
The stock control barrier
It was decided that the veterinary cordon fence (red line) must be done away with soonest and while that happens the Conference directed that quarantine camps be set up to clear animal’s north of the red line. It is therefore not surprising that there have been frantic calls to remove the red line with the 2nd Land Conference approaching. We know that meat produced in the Northern Communal Areas (NCA) has been exported to markets in Africa and beyond. The resolution was to do away with the red line and it would be interesting to hear the reasons advanced for this inaction. We suspect, the Ministry will, in its defence cite the Angolan challenge in enforcing animal health regulations as well the cost of putting up a similar barrier on the Angolan side. Maybe, a shorter timeline with clear deliverables should be set going forward. This one must be marked down, without hesitation.
The Conference resolved to halt the illegal fencing of communal land and that all illegal fences should be removed. This was ostensibly an easy resolution to implement and track progress. Illegal fencing is reported daily and in some instances involving senior public officials, which could account for the observed inaction. The removal of illegal fences is sporadic, with some traditional authorities holding firm while other appear withdrawn. Another poor performance here too.
Dual grazing rights
The Conference barred commercial farmers from having access to communal land and prohibited communal farmers from retaining their communal land rights once they have acquired commercial farms. Without a proper guide it is nearly impossible for traditional authorities to ensure compliance as they might not know when a communal farmer buys a farm and whether such a farm is registered in the name of the concerned farmer or not, or whether the communal land rights have passed to a remaining relative. For Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS) farmers, this could be easily tracked through AgriBank. However, this compliance strategy will for, all intents and purposes, be discriminatory as other farmers will continue to have their bread buttered on both sides. There would be need for a uniform process of cancelling communal land rights in the case of graduation to commercial areas.
Transfer of large communal farmers to commercial land
Envisaged here was a large scale transfer of communal farmers to commercial farms. This was to be implemented through persuasive strategies and financially attractive schemes. The Affirmative Action Loan Scheme administered by AgriBank was perhaps one of the strategies borne out of this resolution. There is a significant number of communal farmers who have been settled or resettled and it is not apparent whether such allocation of land should account for the transfer into commercial land, seeing that there are no stated commercial expectations from settled or resettled farmers. If that is discounted, the inevitable conclusion is that there has not been much in this regard. Minimal points here again.
Access for small farmers to commercial land
The Conference recommended the provision of grazing schemes on state land and training to new commercial farmers. The resolution appears relatively ascertainable but not much has been outwardly done in this regard. We are not aware of specific sustained interventions aimed at assisting small farmers to access commercial land as the AALS prescribes the number of livestock a farmer should own before they qualify for the loan.
NGOs and cooperatives
The Conference resolved that the Government should assist all active Non- Governmental Organisation (NGOs) and cooperatives, and further recognise their work in rural development. Cooperatives have been set up in some areas and there seem to be cooperation with NGOs such as Namibia Nature Foundation and support programs through several foreign missions. Ask any developmental activist and they will tell you that the recognition and bonds of friendship envisaged by the Conference are still work in progress. An overall below average assessment appears fitting for the 24 conference resolutions agreed in 1991. The follow up Conference will therefore require considerable ingenuity to devise practical and sustainable strategies to confront the growing challenge of landlessness.