President Hage Geingob said Friday during the closing ceremony of the Second National Land conference that government will work on establishing enabling legislation and policies in the short-term to expropriate land owned by absentee landlords, and any other underutilized land.
The president said the resettlement programme should be infused with accountability and transparency following allegations that it has been abused by a few politically connected elite, amid claims of corruption and nepotism.
"We will restore and increase trust and fairness in the process," Geingob said.
The recent refusal by the Land Reform Ministry to release the full resettlement list has fuelled suspicions that government was trying to hide the identity of beneficiaries believed to be mostly ruling party functionaries and those close to the seat of government.
"Numerous allegations have been made regarding resettlement pre-2010 list and this troubles me... a concerted effort will be made to find or use the available information to recreate a complete resettlement list even if it means conducting an audit of all the resettlement farms,” the president said.
In a move meant to appease opposition political parties, civic groups and traditional authorities who boycotted the land conference, Geingob said the demands for ancestral land claims were legitimate.
He was, however, quick to point out that there are constitutional limitations to some of the ancestral land redress that is sought.
The president further said that the voice of those claiming ancestral land rights should not be silenced because there are also “no constitutional limitations on freedom of speech”.
“I encourage a robust debate where the right to freely express oneself is exercised with the duty to respect the rights of others.
“One thing we all agree on is that the pursuit of solutions to this important matter cannot take place at the expense of infringing upon the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in our Constitution.”
The president said he has taken note that most regions have recommended that communities, who were dispossessed of their land, should be given special preference when it comes to resettlement.
“I also take note of the recommendation that efforts be made to enable access to heritage sites located on privately owned lands.
“I have also heard the voice of Our Veterans of the Liberation Struggle who said that, “we fought to free every inch of this country after years of genocide followed by more years of Apartheid domination.”
“They said that the whole of Namibia is our Ancestral Land. Having listened and carefully considered viewpoints on this matter, I acknowledge that the issue of dispossession from Ancestral Lands requires concerted efforts for healing and provision of social justice.
He said that while people need to be realistic around possible solutions, it is clear that decisive action has to be taken.
“The matter will be interrogated extensively to ascertain what statutory and policy reforms will help buttress the country’s efforts to redress communities that may have been subjected to untold injustices which dispossessed them of both their ancestral land and dignity.
“The proposal for a Commission of Inquiry to look at this matter featured prominently and deserves further interrogation,” the president said.
He said the work of the Commission would be evidence-based and be enriched by international experience on this matter.
“We must remain mindful that the consequences of colonialism and apartheid resulted in devastating consequences for all Black Namibians which persist from generation to generation.”