Swapo will never be the same

27 February 2015
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The Windhoek Observer met with Job Amupanda this week in the hope that he might shed some light on a number of questions surrounding the controversial Affirmative Repositioning movement.

 

Amupanda responded to allegations by Swapo party Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba this week that he was instigating the landless against Government in an attempt to destabilise the country.

Amupanda drew a parallel between the liberation struggle and the struggle for urban land in Namibia today. He further justified taking on the cause in the manner in which he did. He said he came to the realisation that the 2012 congress had prepared him for this battle and that the youth league or the party as a whole would never operate in the same way after these events.

Windhoek Observer (WO): The Swapo leadership has warned party members not to be involved in the mass land application to take place this Friday. Does this mean anything to you?

Job Amupanda (JA): Swapo itself initially tried to attain independence from South Africa through diplomatic and formal channels for a certain period. Only after the 1965 judgement of the International Court of Justice, which ruled that the apartheid regime should continue to govern Namibia, did they realise all prior diplomatic efforts where in vain and they decided to take up arms.

I’m sure that it was not easy even for someone like President Pohamba. I know the Okwanyama Traditional Authority flogged him when he told them he wanted to fight the Boers.

Many of the elders went into exile without the consent of their parents. In fact, they inspired us, but they have decided to suspend us in the same way the Oukwanyama Traditional Authority flogged President Pohamba, but we will not give up on this just cause.

Why is Mbumba telling us to apply for land individually; did they fight the Boers individually or did they unite?

They use divide and rule tactics to intimidate the youth, and why did they not fight the Boers individually?

That’s why I say we have eight months as far as the land issue is concerned and we will engage the same way as they engaged. We are even willing to engage and contribute our ideas and ability to mobilise. However, I can assure you that just as it has happened in our own history, if these guys don’t address the situation we will take the land.

WO: What inspired the Affirmative Repositioning movement?

 JA:  The issue of land has always been very close to my heart. Ideologically, many people do not understand me, because they only see me through the lens of youth league politics.

However, in terms of ideology, nothing is new because when I was a columnist I used to write about land dispossession. I also understand there are those who don’t fully understand where I stand with regard to this issue.

In terms of what inspired this particular movement the answer is three-fold, there is my ideology on the matter, my personal experiences and then courage.

Firstly, I feel I understand historically what took place between 1920 and 1940 when they gave 39 million hectares of Namibian land to poor and uneducated white farmers because South Africa had a problem with the ‘arm boere’. 

They formed a commission to study what the options were and how best to address the problem. The commission recommended that they should give these poor farmers land to farm on in order to capacitate them.  Again, after the Second World War they gave the soldiers who participated in the war nine million hectares of land as a reward for their contribution.

Therefore, history tells us that we were dispossessed of more than 40 million hectares of land. In order to try to redress that at Independence, we were supposed to work with those figures, but the land conference took some lousy and apologetic decisions.

I understand that at the point of Independence most of these guys were tired and were ready to throw away their revolutionary hats for air-conditioned offices because they were just tired of the war.

Therefore, I see how they set a target to acquire 15 million hectares of land by 2020 instead of the 40 million – because of the circumstances. People waited and now 25 years after Independence with only five years remaining before 2020 Government has only acquired 2.5 million hectares of the 15 million, which amounts to 15 percent of the target.

Clearly, we are not going to meet the target within the remaining five years. Just like all other development plans in this country, we never meet our targets. We moved to NDP4 even though we did not meet 60 percent of the targets in NDP3.

In terms of my personal experience, in 2011 I went to the City of Windhoek to enquire about how one could obtain land – not for me but as an extension of the battle that we never won during our time in student leadership, which was the battle for affordable, alternative accommodation for students.

Together with some other graduate friends, I thought we could propose to the university to supply accommodation for students, which we had seen being done successfully in China. We then submitted a letter to the City of Windhoek arguing that a housing problem existed and we quoted all kinds of statistics to show the principles on which we based our request for land.

We followed up month after month, year after year and with the bureaucracy at the municipality, they only informed us in 2013 that they had rejected our application, supposedly because council did not sell land through private treaty.

After that in September 2014, we saw the likes of Dillish being allocated land, then we saw people’s shacks being demolished.

Then they gave a huge piece of land to a Russian and all other kinds of people. To make matters worse, the councillors started giving themselves land. Windhoek Mayor Agnes Kafula gave land to herself and to her son.

All of this took place in November only weeks before an election and nobody did anything. This is when I started to say these people are joking around.

WO: One of the comments Mbumba made this week is that nobody elected you, and therefore you have no business leading this movement. What made you take matters into your own hands?

JA: From 2009 until 2014, we watched councillors who were demolishing shacks summoned to the party headquarters, but then we learnt nothing would happen to them because top politicians were also getting land.

We enquired about the Urban Land Bill only to find that people at the ministry were just sitting on it, and this is when I realised politics had taken over.

We tried to engage these top guys. As the youth, we had Central Committee resolution after Central Committee resolution but that’s not what I signed up for.

Shortly after all the land scandals became public, this sparked discussion on radio and in the newspapers. The youth were angry and rampant on social media where they insulted people, and it was clear nobody was giving direction.

Even I, as someone in the leadership of the youth league could not give direction. No direction came from the National Youth Council and not even Cabinet regarding this issue of land.

All they told us is that it was not good to demolish people’s shacks during an election year. I then began to ask myself what I was doing about everything I could see happening around me. If I could put in an application and it ends up stuck in bureaucracy for two to three years, what about the ordinary person? It meant that they didn’t stand a chance and I decided we had to do something.

WO: Why Klein Kuppe?

JA: Initially I was going to take land and set up a shack for myself in Okahandja Park that I could turn into a home. There I could dig around for sanitation; get someone to dig a borehole so I could get water, put in air con and so forth and literally just live there. I had saved up some money and I went to the bank to get money from my 32-day account to buy some of the materials for my shack.

Then instead of Okahandja Park, we decided on Kleine Kuppe and we thought we were going to have the shack there. In 25 years, this had never happened in the affluent suburbs and it was only in Katutura where people took land.

During that time, I recall they told us that the prices of houses in Namibia were the second highest in the world after Dubai; that houses in Cape Town were 30 percent cheaper than here, and not a single national leader said anything about it.

It was at this point I though let’s rock the boat. I didn’t want to involve anyone else in the youth league structures to avoid people saying this was a typical anti-Hage action if the whole leadership went to take the land, and I decided to do this on my own.

Then Dimbulukeni would acquire some money for materials as well, and our friend George decided to join the movement. I remember asking them what their parents would think because these were young guys.

Going to Kleine Kuppe was more about raising consciousness and showing our leaders what could happen. We were sending a message because they never thought it possible. We had two choices, to do it alone as we did or to mobilise the youth to do it with us.

In my naivety I thought let’s keep the situation under control and just show the leadership symbolically and they would respond. However, I was angry and sad when I realised that the elders decided to take an aggressive approach. Residents of Kleine Kuppe, who told them that I had actually decided to live there, alerted the politicians. They told my mother that they saw me in the morning preparing breakfast outside in my ‘trunkie’.

WO: It appears you have been left out alone in the cold because no senior leader in the party has come to your defence. Do you consider this a betrayal from the likes of Jerry Ekandjo whom you supported at the 2012 congress?

JA: In hindsight when I look at everything that happened, I can understand them when judging from the circumstances. I don’t really feel betrayed because I know that in any situation, someone always has to become the sacrificial lamb, and they always choose the easiest person to sacrifice.

For some of those guys, they made the decisions that they can afford to sacrifice Job because he doesn’t represent an immediate threat to their material well-being or political ambition, and so I understand them.

Even with those who called us educated fools, I understood why they did what they did. That’s why I forgave Shali for the comment that he made, because we both know what the truth is.

I don’t regret some of the decisions we took even though some of the things were a baptism of fire; it was our first congress and people were very angry with us.

However, when I think about what we accomplished when it came to the leadership at the beginning of September 2012 we achieved a great deal, because congress was in December and in two months, we secured 220 votes for our candidate.

It is because of that experience that we are succeeding now in terms of mobilisation.

That’s why I am able to respond effectively to people like the secretary general. The reason why we decided to back our own candidate at the previous congress was so that in the future people would know whom the youth supported and this would become the norm. After those events, Swapo would never be the same again.

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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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