Land conference a public relations stunt - analysts

21 September 2018 Author   Kaula Nhongo

Analysts have expressed concern over the dominance of SWAPO Party loyalists on the list of participants to the Second National Land Conference which is expected to take place beginning of next month after it emerged that over 70 percent of the delegates are aligned to the ruling party. Analysts have expressed concern over the dominance of SWAPO Party loyalists on the list of participants to the Second National Land Conference which is expected to take place beginning of next month after it emerged that over 70 percent of the delegates are aligned to the ruling party. 

The list, which consists of over 600 delegates, is largely dominated by civil servants, governors from all 14 regions, regional councilors, employees from the various municipalities and town councils, and a sprinkling of opposition parties in Parliament, foreign governments, banks and foreign funding institutions.
In an interview with the Windhoek Observer, Ovaherero Traditional Authority Representative in the land conference high-level committee, Mutjinde Katjiua, said he was skeptical that the conference would yield a solution to the land question.
He said the land conference high-level committee meetings have so far been characterized by poor organization and lack of capacity to organize the conference.
“The organizers are basically failing to put it all together in a manner that is efficient.
“I am not so sure whether this conference will yield anything. The high-level committee has not put any mechanisms in place as to how the resolutions or recommendations are going to be recorded. 
“There is nothing as to how we are going to work out recommendations into policy and enhance participation to make sure that people’s recommendations are taken into consideration,” Katjiua said.
He said he expected the organisers to commission an independent body to take down contributions and work them out to form a policy.
“One would have wanted a situation where some institutions will be in play like a commission that will take down these things, work them out and formulate policies to be implemented by the relevant ministry,” he said.
In his view, government was trying to bury the ancestral land issue at the conference by congesting the program with unnecessary issues.
“The sticky thing is the ancestral land question; that is the one aspect that they want to marginalize. 
“Although in principal we have agreed that it should be a standalone point with its sub-discussion points and its own working group, the program is so clogged with too many things that we are even struggling to get it onto the program.
“There are so many unnecessary topics that they are not willing to remove.
“The majority of people in government think that the recognition of ancestral land means those who lost ancestral land will have to be given the whole land back, but there are so many mechanisms to deal with it.
“We should seek remedies. The perception of this thing being a monster will just continue to proceed,” Katjiua said
Deputy President of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), Henny Seibeb, also questioned the participation of some government ministries, agencies and local authorities.
He said there was no need for the organisers to include the ministry of health as well as agencies such as the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) as they would add no value to the conference.
“Remove useless people from the program and let us discuss pertinent issues. Land resettlement and ancestral land issues should be on top of the list,” Seibeb said.
According to Seibeb, the conference is already predetermined and it will not yield the desired results.
“This is a waste of tax payers’ money and this conference has already been predetermined by those holding higher positions. Government does not have the best interests of the people,” Seibeb said.
He also questioned the time given to those giving presentations, citing that 15 minutes was not enough time for presenters to make their case.
Sandy Tjaronda complained about the unbalanced participation list, saying the conference will be dominated by SWAPO loyalists who will not be objective.
He said the conference is just a publicity stunt to help the party in the upcoming elections.
 “If you have institutions that are mandated and given the responsibility to execute some of the land problems being the ones that are going to sit in this land conference, they will defend their positions, they will not actually want to be exposed, so there is a lot of conflict of interest,” Tjaronda said.
 “We will not be able to get a representative view and response to the critical land reform in this country with this kind of approach.
“It is a self-defeating process. You cannot get out what you have not put in, so whatever we are putting in is what we are going to get out. Our inputs are already telling us that we are going for a crunch.”
Tjaronda questioned the participation of parliamentarians who will be responsible for any legislative endorsements after the conference.
“If they are going to formulate laws based on what they actually gave input to, some of them will be compromised. You need an independent body.”
In his view, the process and manner in which government is carrying out activities leading to the land conference is worrying and leaves a lot to be desired.
“This whole thing is run on secrecy, nothing is coming out, and the public does not know anything. This is something that is meant to discuss life-defining issues, but there is nothing that we are seeing even in terms of awareness, we do not see buses branded, nothing.
“Even if access is controlled, you must at least mobilize the voices of the citizens to make sure that each one at a small corner can actually make a small contribution even if it is through phone-in programs on the radio.
“The discussions that will take place from the 1st to the 5th of October are focused on the land issue and everybody wants to make an input one way or the other,” Tjaronda said.

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