Cabinet split on AR move

07 August 2015 Author  

front Hage  7 AugustCabinet members continue to voice their concern secretly about Government’s decision to work with the Affirmative Repositioning movement (AR), despite the fact that the Office of the President has defended the action.

 

Press Secretary in the Office of the President Albertus Aochamub explained in an interview this week that President Hage Geingob undertook to engage the AR leadership to preserve peace and stability in the country.

“This is a manifestation of the oath of office he took on 21 March 2015 whereby he has the constitutional obligation to ensure no stone is left unturned in keeping that peace,” Aochamub said 

Leaders of the AR movement met with President Geingob and members of Cabinet at State House two weeks ago.

At the meeting, the AR leaders presented their ideas to the president on how best to address the urban land crisis in the country.

The meeting which resolved to make 200,000 serviced plots available averted a nationwide land grab threat on 31 July.

However, a Cabinet minister recently remarked that although the meeting with AR had diffused the 31 July threat, it had opened up a Pandora’s Box as far as the broader land issue in Namibia is concerned.

“We can foresee many more land meetings in future, called by groups who will also come to demand land with legitimate claims backed by historical facts,” the minister said.

He further criticised the composition of the ministerial committee tasked with advising Geingob and liaising with the AR leaders.

He said the committee only increased the problem, because some of the people there were AR sympathizers, while others were out of their depth or indifferent.

The ministerial committee consists of Minister of Land Reform Uutoni Nujoma, Minister of Justice Albert Kawana, Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa and Attorney General Sackeus Shanghala.

Another Cabinet minister objected to the head of state meeting with the youth activists because it made AR look like the messiahs of land.

The minister however, said that even though meeting and negotiating with the AR leaders might have appeared as a weakness, Government was the ultimate winner.

 “All we did was to fast track plans that Government already had in place, and in this regard I have to applaud the president for killing two birds with one stone,” the minister said.

Aochamub did not agree that President Geingob had set a dangerous precedent for other activists or interest groups that might threaten violence or anarchy to force Government to concede to their demands.

“It is a myopic view of running a country and how one deals with various interest groups in a democracy where contestation of ideas is the norm.

“On a daily basis the president engages many pressure groups (both foreign sponsored and local) focusing on diverse matters.  In that sense, Government will always engage any group that aims to strengthen and build our democratic culture.

“We will never shy away from constructive proposals and engagements of all sorts,” he said.

He seemed evasive when answering the question of whether AR had held the presidency to ransom with urban land delivery.

He however, made it clear that Government had decided to take a proactive approach to the ownership of natural resources.

AR leaders have previously said they would be looking into the allocation of fishing quotas and mining exploration licenses once they have attained their goals on the land issue.

Aochamub said the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has already submitted a Bill to Parliament aimed at strengthening Government’s role in the sector especially when it comes to ownership and redistribution of marine resources.

“Similarly, the Ministry of Mines and Energy is also finalising its reviews of all the relevant legislative pieces to ensure Namibian ownership and improved benefits from our mineral resources. 

“On a much larger scale, the Minister of Justice is finalising an exercise across all Government departments aimed at improving our laws to drive local ownership and better distribution of our natural assets,” he said. 

Aochamub emphasised that Government has not been sitting idle since assuming office four months ago waiting for lobbyists to tell it the obvious. 

“Work is afoot to deal with poverty eradication and our laws that are in need of reform will undergo necessary amendments urgently to align them to that stated objective.

“All initiatives are aimed at effecting long term change for all our people and many will take time to bring to fruition, but work has commenced in all earnest,” he said

The presidential spokesperson could not answer questions on where the funding to service 200,000 plots would come from, and how much this exercise would cost Government.

 “As part of this drive resources will be found and availed.

“Stage one is to clear the land as you have already noticed, and then the provision of services will commence thereafter. Details will become available as the technical working group continues to work hard in the weeks ahead,” Aochamub said.

WINDHOEK OBSERVER

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