February 6, 2017

Rehoboth Basters: Community Fails to Be Consulted in Land Bill Discussion

Photo courtesy of Eric Montfort @flickr.com

While Namibian Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma claims that politicians have been given ample opportunity to comment on the 160-page draft document for a new Land Law, he called the involvement of the wider public in the decision-making process a waste of money. Unfortunately, this also means that the Rehoboth Basters’ traditional leadership body, the Captains Council, which is not officially recognised as a political body, is de facto muted on an issue of greatest importance to the community, who was dispossessed of their ancestral lands after Namibian independence.

Below is an article published by The Namibian:

Land Reform minister Utoni Nujoma claims wide consultations preceded the tabling of the Land Bill and that interested parties have now been afforded ample time to comment on the 160-page draft law.

Speaking at the annual lands ministry staff welcoming gathering yesterday [25 January 2017], Nujoma said the bill has been in deliberation since 2004, adding that politicians have been given an extended period to scrutinise the bill while also claiming that civil society had been extensively consulted.

“We gave them some time and consultations cost money. Mind you, we do not want to waste money on consultations. We gave the politicians time and up to this day those talking too much have not contributed any of their input, except the Legal Assistance Centre, that commented on the rights of women,” said Nujoma.

He added that politicians were given time during the year-end festive holiday to read through the draft law but had not done so, castigating them for criticising without providing constructive inputs.

“You have an opportunity to make an impact but you are just making noise in newspapers. I know we introduced the bill at a very late stage in the National Assembly. There were only 14 days left before parliament closed for recess. Which is why we extended the date for inputs to 2017 because some politicians said the bill was bulky,” said Nujoma.

As the deadline for inputs has been extended to February 2017, Nujoma said he intended to have the bill re-tabled in parliament after the resumption of the parliamentary session.

He also said that the land conference would be adequately budgeted for in the new financial year, starting April 2017, should funds be available.

DTA president McHenry Venaani reiterated that his party would not contribute to discussions of the bill until the land conference has been held.

“We are not going to accept the land bill until the land conference takes place. Resolutions to the bill can be made at the land conference instead of preempting what resolutions will be made. Nujoma is supervising a corrupt system. The land allocation process is corrupt as comrades are getting land instead of the people who have applied for that land. We are not going to accept the process,” he said.

He added that if Nujoma tabled the bill, people power would be organised. However, he cautioned that as Swapo held an outright ­parliamentary majority the bill could be passed into law.

United People's Movement (UPM) president Jan van Wyk said his party would give its input once the bill was re-tabled in parliament.

Concerning consultations, Van Wyk said traditional leaders should have been consulted.

“Even though Nujoma says that wide consultations have been done with civil society, not all traditional authorities whether recognised or not have been consulted. For instance, the Rehoboth Baster community has not been consulted. The minister must tell us who represented the Nama communities, the San communities, the Baster communities and so many other communities,” said Van Wyk.