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Land Conference won’t solve land issues

A land conference will achieve nothing in terms of land redistribution and restitution as long as the government is locked in a ‘neo-liberal’ mindset, a political analyst said last week.
This comes after the government, through the Ministry of Land Reform, postponed the second land conference which was slated to take place in November 2016. The conference was postponed until further notice due to ‘lack of funds’ in government.
Speaking to the Economist, political analyst, Dr. Omu Kakujaha-Matundu, said the government should pronounce itself on land redistribution and restitution, rather than hiding behind a land conference.
“Surely, to move away from the status quo needs a radical shift, a revolution. Is the Namibian government prepared for such a shift? The answer is no. If the answer is no, why waste money on a talk show? So to me, the holding, the postponement or the cancellation of the conference is the same difference,” Dr. Kakujaha-Matundu said.
The second land conference was to take stock of the achievements made since the first national land conference held in 1991, and to establish what is needed to accelerate and improve the implementation of recommendations made at that time. However, Hon Utoni Nujoma, the Minister of Land Reform announced the indefinite postponement of the planned conference in the National Assembly, noting the unavailability of funds to host the event. Meanwhile, the ministry has not made public the conference’s agenda, dates or details for regional consultations prior to cancellation of the event.
“The land question is a very sensitive economic and political issue. The willing-buyer willing-seller policy failed dismally to redistribute land. Instead, it served to push land prices sky high. Our political elite are locked-in through the purchasing of land at those prices,” Dr. Kakujaha-Matundu said.
The lands ministry recently revealed that about 1.2 million hectares of land (247 agricultural farms) are owned by foreigners most of which are absentee farmers.
“Similarly the Resettlement Policy failed to empower the landless, and restore land through land restitution for those who lost land through land theft by the colonialists. So, for those who lost their land they hope and think that a second land conference will restore their lost land to them and free them from the bondage of lack of land and poverty,” the analyst said.
The 1st National Land Conference held in 1991 came up with about 24 resolutions which failed to gather any momentum.
Also speaking to the Economist was the Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Land Reform, Chrispin Matongela, who confirmed the minister’s stance and said right now there is nothing they can do but wait.

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