We think the myriad of issues popping up around the land question is actually a smokescreen covering the real battleground about land in Namibia, which is the conflict between the dispossessed and the elites.
In other words, it is the eternal struggle between the haves and the have-nots.
The political and emotional murk surrounding the land issue is not primarily about tribal or ethnic concerns nor redressing historical injustices as the overt debate seems to indicate.
That said, we do support that people who have been dispossessed must be heard and justice must be served.
We are concerned however, that the pursuit of a measure of justice on the question of land, is being used as an artificial rallying call by the elites to ensure their unfettered access to this country’s resources vs the dispossessed who are seeking fairness.
The current debates over land policy in Namibia are actually meant to hide this reality while many elites, who feel they are entitled to the land (and other resources and business riches and opportunities), want to keep what they’ve already siphoned off and make sure the gates remain open to them.
We listened carefully to the various statements made by government officials, ruling party representatives and stakeholder land groups in the run up to the Second National Land Conference that begins next week.
In particular, Mukwaita Shanyengana of the SWAPO Party Elders Council feels that regardless of the outcome of the conference, ancestral land claims must be jettisoned as they will stoke the flames of tribalism.
He even used the emotionally loaded term of ‘civil war’ as the outcome of any acquiescence to land allocations on the basis of ethnic or ancestral claims.
We are concerned that such statements are being made to fool the normal person-in-the-streets into believing that the debate over land is a testimony for or against tribalism; for or against ‘civil war.’
A subsistence farmer somewhere in the Zambezi or anywhere in the North or other part of Namibia may listen to all the commentary about the conference and only understand that the land issue means that someone from another ethnic group wants to take away his fields based on an ancestral claim on that patch of ground.
We feel such inaccurate characterisation of the land issue is a smokescreen to cover-up continued elite control over not just the land, but all income-generating natural resources in Namibia.
If an accurate look at who is receiving the resettlement farms, EPLs, fishing quotas, affirmative action farm loans and other natural resource allocations is ever possible, we are convinced it will reveal not necessarily one ethnic group reaping all benefits but one socio-economic class gathering wealth.
Ironically, that subsistence farmer angrily believing that ancestral land claims may threaten his plot, will likely never be a beneficiary of any of any national resource honey pots currently being licked clean by the elites.
It is unfortunate that ‘resettlement’ to date has not empowered or uplifted those who ‘have not’. As it is currently implemented, land resettlement appears to have further enriched many who already ‘have.’
There are elite Ovambos of all the different sub-language groups, Hereros of different sections, Kavangos, Zambezians and other ethnic groups that are benefiting from one natural resource boon or another in Namibia.
The common denominator is that they come from the elite class. They have access to finance, resources, and most importantly, information.
We are convinced that the furore against ancestral land discussions and resolutions for redress is more about a select group of people and families in Namibia maintaining their access to the prime resources of this country.
Whether it is land, fish, board sitting fees, mining or hunting concessions, those (regardless of race or ethnic background) with access to information, investment capital, connections, networks and the ability to manoeuvre under cover, have positioned themselves to be the golden pot at the end of the Namibian rainbow.
It is this that is being protected, each time papier mâché issues such as threats of ‘civil wars’ or a return to ‘Bantustans’ or the degeneration of Namibia into a ‘Federal State’, are used by those lambasting or decrying the lands conference.
We cannot fathom how a minister denies providing the Ombudsman a complete and up-to-date list of who benefited from the resettlement program since its inception without understanding the urgent need of the elites of this country to hide any record of their benefits.
We are certain that list, when fully collated and arranged will reveal elite families and cronies and their shell companies that will shock most regular, work-a-day Namibians.
When we look at a Vicki Ya Toivo being ‘resettled’ on free land, regardless of her millions in personal assets, we must take stock of ourselves as a nation and ask if the shopping carts of the elites are already too full?
The Agribank loans that should have been underwritten by tax payers and made available for ordinary resettlement farmers to receive the finances and training they needed to make their new farms work, were instead given to politicians, top business people, local and civil society leaders…all of the elite (regardless of ethnic group) instead.
Adding insult to injury, some of these people receiving a national gift of an affirmative action loan, didn’t even bother to pay it off.
Land grants given to PLAN soldiers after the war did not end up in the hands of the rank-and-file privates who undertook the everyday dangerous missions.
These plots went to the officers, high-ranked leaders and others in power in national security structures (we await the outcome of the next court struggle to have more of this information revealed).
From what we are able to discern, the elite of the military seem to continue to benefit from natural resources through hunting and tourism farms as well as fishing quotas, leaving the everyday, underpaid solider at home on furlough due to a lack of funds to support them in their bases.
Instead of playing the ‘tribal card’ to protect elite consumption of resources, let us change the rules of the game and forbid any entity or individual with wealth or income above a certain level from obtaining resettlement farms, fishing quotas or EPLs.
While this type of restriction sounds practical, it won’t happen easily as the entitled segments of our society have political control and will never pass a rule that blocks or restricts their access to more income-generating resources.
The result of the land conference, demanded by the dispossessed, but being run by the elites, will fare no differently unless the ‘have nots’ resist the inflammatory ‘tribal’ word games being played by the ‘haves’. All focus must be on the need for fair access to the land; different points of view must not only be heard at the conference, but seriously considered for possible inclusion in national policy.