The NANGOF (Namibian Non-Governmental Organisations Forum) Working Group on Land Reform will hold a series of local and regional consultations over the next two months, which will culminate in the Civil Society Conference on Land Reform, as a precursor to the envisaged government’s second National Land Conference. This is as per the announcement by Minister of Land Reform Uutoni Nujoma of Government decision to convene the second National Land Conference in November 2016.
The community based localised meetings will consult with communities, landless people, traditional leaders, beneficiaries of Government resettlement and regional land boards, on the state of land reform and the resettlement programmes since independence.
Specifically, the civil society consultations are aimed at identifying key challenges/thematic areas related to the current land policies; ascertaining underlying structural issues that impose current challenges; putting forward people’s responses on such challenges for the purposes of advocacy and lobby; seeking input for the process and content of the second national land conference for lobby purposes; and agreeing on a civil society position paper on land reform for the second national land conference.
The local and regional consultations will prioritise the eight regions mostly affected by land dispossession by German and South African colonial governments, however, all regions will eventually be covered. These include Hardap, //Karas, Omaheke, Khomas, Otjozondjupa, Erongo, Kunene south and Oshikoto south.
When Government under the leadership of Dr Hage Geingob, then Prime Minister, organised the first national land conference in 1991, civil society organisations although not well coordinated made efforts to influence the outcomes.
However, three years after the national land conference when no action was taken by government to implement the 24 resolutions taken at the national conference, civil society organisations under the facilitation of RISE Namibia organised the first People’s Land Conference in Mariental in September 1994, which was attended by close to 500 delegates from all over Namibia.
One of the resolutions of the People’s Land Conference was to set up a NGO Working Group on Land Reform to be hosted by NANGOF. A land reform advocacy programme was developed and implemented by NANGOF for several years and worked on the Commercial Agricultural Land Act, National Land Policy, Communal Land Act, Resettlement Policy and other programmes and land and agrarian reform issues.
In 2011, the Working Group was reactivated and undertook several local and regional consultations that reviewed progress with land reform and resettlement. These consultations culminated in the National Workshop on Land Reform and Resettlement that was held at Tabitha Centre in Windhoek and attended by 200 participants from all over Namibia. One of the resolutions of the national workshop was calling on government to urgently convene a second National Land Conference.
Therefore, we as civil society organisations, are pleased that government through the Harambee Prosperity Plan is envisaging convening the second National Land Conference in November 2016.
Working Groups currently consist of NANGOF member organisations such as Namibia Development Trust, Legal Assistance Centre and the Desk for Social Development of the ELCRN (which also serves as the Secretariat for the Working Group), Namibia National Farmers Union and //Naosan /Aes Landless People’s Movement. We are consulting the Council of Churches of Namibia and the National Youth Council to join.
While we are pleased with the government’s decision, we would like to express our concerns around the organisation of the second National Conference on Land.
Whereas less than two months remain before November 2016, we are concerned that no date or venue has been announced by the Ministry of Land Reform. There are also no dates or details for regional consultations.
Although no agenda has been announced, we are informed that the main agenda item will be the review of the 24 resolutions taken at the first National Land Reform conference. Our concern is whether independent researchers, land experts and academics have been commissioned to undertake this review or if the Ministry of Land Reform will evaluate itself.
Since the land question is a matter of national concern and indeed a sensitive matter, we are concerned that the Ministry of Land Reform is single-handedly organising this second conference. We are proposing that an inter-sectoral organising committee be set up composing of line ministries, civil society organisations (including organisations of landless people, churches, farmers unions, trade unions and non-governmental organisations working on land issues) and the private sector.
This organising committee will agree on agenda, participation, resource persons and other important content issues for the conference.
We are also concerned about who will be invited to the second conference. Our view is that landless people, farmer’s organisations, resettled programme beneficiaries and other important stakeholders must be the majority participants at the conference.
We are also advising that government to put aside all on-going policy and legislative reviews until the second conference has expressed itself on the whole land question.
In addition to the above-mentioned concerns, our consultations will be focusing on the following issues: slow pace of land reform and why the target for land acquisition was reviewed by the Ministry of Land Reform in 2014; reopening of the ancestral land claims debate and inclusion of the legal land expropriation as part of the genocide negotiations currently underway between the Namibian and German governments and affected communities. We would like to state that under German colonial rule, the extermination of the indigenous populations and the expropriation of land began resulting in Namibians losing most of their valuable farming land by military conquest to colonial settlers. The central and southern regions, especially those inhabited by the Herero, the Nama, Damara and San, were particularly affected by colonial land expulsion. Illegal fencing in communal land areas and what will happen with those that fenced. Waivers given to commercial farmers; Support to resettlement farmers and Development of communal farmers.
In view of these recent developments, civil society organisations under the banner of NANGOF and with financial assistance from the Friedrich Erbert Stiftung, will conduct the aforesaid consultations.
A National Civil Society Conference on Land Reform will be held after completion of all local and regional consultations. The key issues identified in each region during the consultations will be tabled at the conference. The Working Group will identify key themes emerging from the local and regional consultations.