We come firmly down on the side of the Deputy Minister of Land Reform, Bernadus Swartbooi, and the substantive issues he addresses on resettlement and encourage him to resist all efforts to undercut his principled position.
We all know that the points raised about resettlement are not new and this debate has raged since Independence, picking up momentum in the last five years or so.
On principle, we reject the 24 hour threat emerging from Presidential Affairs Minister, Frans Kapofi. Sending a fellow SWAPO Party MP such a letter is nothing short of intimidation.
Kapofi declared the deputy minister’s comments as a violation of his oath to ‘uphold and protect the Constitution’, but we challenge him to point out exactly which line of our valuable national document carries the illegality of any aspect of the statements reportedly made by the outspoken former governor.
There are people in Government charged with crimes, silent on missing millions in State funds and who have erred in ways that affect the running of the country and yet, where is the demand for their apology to the Namibian people for corruption, poor performance, and errors in decision-making?
Free speech should not be denied to anyone in the Namibian House, particularly as that very same Constitution which even Kapofi swore to, protects that right. Just who has the key to the Namibian House anyway? Shall those allowed to enter be only those who say what the powers-that-be like?
There is strength in a democracy that welcomes diversity and divergent points of view on all topics. Sycophants and ‘yes-men’ amongst advisors and lawmakers do a dis-service to the decision making process.
Rather than issuing 24 hour job-killing notices, the issues raised should be dealt with on substance. Why not take up the points made, challenge the deputy minister to assemble a team that will devise a strategy, budget and timeline for resolution of the points he is making and submit those to Cabinet.
Use the opportunity granted by the reported comments to demand that those of similar points of view (who are supposedly a part of the Namibian House too) put up practical ideas (and identify finances) for implementation of their points or shut up.
Hiding behind threats of job termination does not address a single issue on land resettlement and reform and only exacerbates divisions within the Namibian nation.
What is the government’s response to the fact that people from other areas are being resettled on land that was historically taken away from another group of people by the colonialists? These are facts and are on the record.
Graves of ancestors are there; verbal and written history is there; and traditions and customs are there. We all know who lost land to the Germans and where that land was lost. It stokes the flames of things unsettled to ignore those who lost land historically and give resettlement farms to people from entirely different historical settings.
The cry is for tolerance, fairness and preference based on historical claims in a particular area. Shutting down Swartbooi does not eliminate this issue.
When we talk about “resettlement” of people on land, we imply people who were once there, but how is someone from the Zambezi, ‘resettled’ in the Karas region? These questions should form the debate on this issue, not Swartbooi’s method of raising the points.
Perhaps clarifications are in order between the minister and his deputy and that should be handled administratively within the Government or between the two distinguished leaders.
As it stands, however, we ask, to whom shall Swartbooi apologize? Shall he apologize to the Nama people for articulating their points of view on land resettlement regardless of historical concerns?
Shall he apologize to those ancestors of the thousands who lost land and cattle to the Germans or those who lost homes and land due to the Odendaal Plan or apartheid laws? Perhaps he should apologize to those land barons and the previously advantaged who sit on farms stolen from the people who originally lived there?
Kapofi must not demand apologies on behalf of people who have not requested it. Most voices in the public domain are agreeing with Swartbooi on the substance of the issues that he raised, while others believe that public mentioning of a senior leader by name should have been avoided. Arguably the latter point is a legitimate concern.
All that said, we have yet to hear of a citizen who feels that the Constitution has been violated due to what Swartbooi is reported to have said.
Perhaps, the public must give the government 24 hours for a response to the legitimate issues Swartbooi raised. We cannot shoot the messenger and sweep issues like this under the rug indefinitely. The rugs on the floors of the Namibian House are already too lumpy from other issues buried in the same way.