Land conference to go ahead . . . despite withdrawals from key stakeholders

28 September 2018 Author   Kaula Nhongo and Eliaser Ndeyanale

Vice President, Nangolo Mbumba, has appealed to the groups who pulled out of next week’s Second National Land Conference to reconsider as the conference will go ahead as planned.Vice President, Nangolo Mbumba, has appealed to the groups who pulled out of next week’s Second National Land Conference to reconsider as the conference will go ahead as planned.

This comes after several groups which include the official opposition party, PDM, as well as other opposition parties, non-governmental organisations and land activists, announced their withdrawal from the conference.
In an interview with the Windhoek Observer on Thursday, Mbumba said he has no powers to cancel the conference as their grievances were being considered by Prime Minister, Sarah Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
“We had a long three-hour meeting to appeal to them, they gave us their views, those recommendations were accommodated, the only one which I have no authority or power to accommodate is the one to cancel the meeting; that one I do not have, neither will I get it.
“The conference as far as the government is concerned will go ahead on Monday, the Prime Minister is busy with all those items and she will be making an announcement. All the documents that need to be released will be released.  Those additional people have been added; they have been notified.  Regrettably, there are those who are not coming, but unfortunately the postponement of the conference is no longer possible at this last hour,” Mbumba said.
Political analysts have, however, questioned the legitimacy of the conference seeing that crucial groups have withdrawn.
Political analyst, Fanuel Kaapama, said there were some considerations to be made on whether to cancel the conference or to proceed.
“The legitimacy of the conference without the various groups would somewhat be questionable while the leaked resolutions have also made the situation even dire. My personal impression is that there is already a pre-determined outcome which has not built confidence in the conference,” Kaapama said.
He said government had already spent over N$11 million so far on preparations and consultations thus the cost aspect would need to be considered.
In his view, the withdrawal by the various groups can be described as similar to a political Coup D’état. 
“The president is out of the country and he has been announcing to the world that Namibia is about to hold a 2nd Land Conference so calling it off will be out of the question. It remains a dilemma whether government would continue or not,” Kaapama said. 
The president, who is out of the country on several state commitments, will be back on Sunday.
Various traditional authorities and civil society leaders also indicated Thursday that they are not going to part take in the land conference scheduled for the whole of next week.
They labelled it a sham and not worthy of attendance by citizens committed to resolving the land question justly and equitably.
Addressing a meeting of about 250 people at Habitant Research Centre in Katutura, Ovaherero paramount chief, Vekuii Rukoro, said traditional leaders from Ovaherero, Nama and Damara communities’ position is informed by the fact that the composition of the conference shows that the it is not a broadly consultative conference, but essentially government talking to itself because according to him, majority of the delegates are from government entities.
He believes that government entities are all going to toe the government line as contained in the government position paper circulating on social media which also contains recommendations on what government entities should resolve on the different issues to be discussed at the conference.
In his speech which was endorsed by Swanu president, Tangeni Iijambo, Nudo president Asser Mbai, Namibian Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (NANGOF) chairman, Sandie Tjaronda, and other traditional leaders present, Rukoro who compared the conference to a mini Berlin Conference, said “we shall not and cannot be party to such sham of a conference – let the government and its entities proceed with their mini Berlin conference which is aimed at declaring a political and economic extermination order against dispossessed of our people. 
He said the traditional leaders and their subjects believe that the outcome of the land conference should be anchored in restitution or resettlement on ancestral land to the specific groups of Namibians who lost land due to colonial and genocidal expropriation.
Speaking at the same event, Tjaronda said that in their view, government did not act in a good faith and has no mission, sensitivity or commitment to address the injustices of the past.
“The descendants of these communities who were killed, raped and forcefully dispossessed and displaced of their land and stand here today to face a momentous date with destiny. They either choose to join an orchestrated exercise concocted to drive them deeper into poverty and destitution with no future for their children and grandchildren or opt out of this flawed process. 
“When anarchy gets loose, the centre cannot hold. Many feel it will be naïve to join in the perpetuating anarchy directed at yourself and generations to come,” he said.
He also proposed that the conference be postponed to May 2020 and that the resettlement list be released on or before 05 October.
He added that proactive disclosure facilitates pubic engagement, promoting the values and ethos of democracy which are accountability and transparency which yields trust. 
“Anyone who does not factor ancestral land in their land reform program is either an enemy of progress or enemy of the affected communities.”
Adding his voice on the boycotting of the land conference, Popular for Democratic Movement (PDM) president, McHenry Venaani, said that his party’s decision to withdraw from the conference is informed by the refusal by the Minister of Land Reform, Utoni Nujoma, to release the list of resettlement beneficiaries.
He said this creates unwarranted suspicions, and undermines the fundamental ethos of transparency, and accountability, which President Hage Geingob, repeatedly emphasised as key values of his administration. 
Venaani went on to say that the refusal to release the list also deprives participants the right of informed consent to have a constructive and meaningful contribution to the debate lacking in the facts on that list.
“It further erodes confidence, and trust in government engagements or operations which as the Official Opposition are mandated to provide the required checks and balances.
“We as the Official Opposition, find it extremely difficult to render our co-operation to such an activity.
“The nonchalant attitude of government and its ministers to invite people as they please initially omitting the Baster Traditional leadership is an insult which the Official Opposition didn’t take kindly,” he said.
The AR movement has also announced that it will not participate at the land conference in its current format, for among other reasons that they got the invite to the land conference at the 11th hour and that because there are clear signs of a choreographed and predetermined gimmick.
The side-lining of urban land, 15 minutes time allocation to address the pressing issues faced by 1.5 million people suffering from urban land challenges and the neo-liberal, capitalist and anti-radical – anti-leftist posture of the conference are some of the reasons for the withdrawal.

WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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