Nujoma not sour, as Geingob shelves Land Bill
The Ministry of Land Reform says President Hage Geingob’s decision to halt the tabling of the controversial Land Bill in Parliament is not a slap in the face of Minister Utoni Nujoma.
Geingob, who was speaking at an event marking the start of the country’s legal year this week, said that the tabling of the Bill should be halted, to allow for more consultation.
His decision followed a public outcry, and threats of demonstrations and parliamentary walkouts.
Land Reform Ministry Spokesperson, Chrispin Matongela, could not authoritatively say whether Geingob had consulted Nujoma before making the decision.
“It does not come as a surprise; we will just have to deliver. This is how things work in the Government. When you work in the public sector you are waiting for instructions,” said Matongela.
“This is not a slap in the face of the minister, because he [Nujoma] always says if there are other instructions coming we need to follow them. There is no contradiction in what the minister said and the instruction from the president.”
Matongela also said that the ministry is awaiting thorough instructions from Geingob on the way forward, specifically on how to hold the further public consultations.
A group calling themselves the Landless People’s Movement has been fighting tooth and nail, in a bid to prevent Nujoma from tabling the Bill until after the upcoming land conference, slated for September.
Their main concern is that the issue of ancestral land claims is not covered in the Bill, in its current form.
Despite this, Nujoma had remained adamant that he will go ahead with his plan to table the Bill, saying that his detractors are “misrepresenting the facts to the people”.
Nujoma and his ministry had also maintained that thorough consultations had been carried out and that the ministry’s processes were transparent and inclusive.
Speaking on behalf of the Landless People’s Movement, Olsen Kahiriri said they welcome Geingob’s decision, but expressed concerns about the manner in which their misgivings about the Bill have been handled.
“There was probably a miscommunication, as we wrote to the president and the minister earlier this year, but to date we have received no response from these two offices,” Kahiriri said.
“The president might have withdrawn the Bill, but there are conditions to this instruction. They can change after a month and decide to table it before Parliament. What we are requesting is that the Bill should not be rushed and that it be held back, until the land conference has been convened.”
The movement says it will go ahead with handing over its petition to National Assembly Speaker, Peter Katjavivi, during the opening of Parliament on 14 February.
Meanwhile, the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) said this week that there is nothing preventing Government from using international instruments it is a signatory to or enacting laws to deal with ancestral land claims.
This is despite a decision at the 1991 National Conference on Land Reform and the Land Question, not to pursue the issue of Namibians whose land was forcefully taken during the colonial and apartheid eras.
According to the LAC’s Legal Educator and Public Outreach Officer, Theodor Muduva, the decision at the time not to look into restitution, but rather to implement a land distribution policy, has not succeeded in compensating those who had ancestral land claims.
“Government has ratified various international conventions and charters, including those which deal with the question of ancestral land, which becomes automatically binding on Namibia,” Muduva said.
“Therefore, such claims can be supported through, and by those international instruments, such as the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights.”
He also made reference to South African Restitution of Land Rights Act, saying that nothing prohibits Namibia from enacting laws that deals specifically with ancestral claims.
“This brings us to the ultimate question of whether there is political will from the Government to do so.”
Nudo parliamentarian, Meundju Jahanika, who has been very vocal on the issue of ancestral land and restitution, said that although there are currently no legal provisions to presently deal with the issue, parliament is there to rectify this state of affairs.
“Parliament has a main duty to make laws, and therefore legal provision can be made to deal with ancestral land,” he said.