Friday, July 1, 2011

Namibian Land time-bomb

This piece was published in the Letter to the Editor section of the Pan African magazine, New African, July 2011 edition.

Kindly permit me space for this letter in reaction to your story: “The Trouble with Namibia,” NA June 2011, pp4- 44.

I must first thank you guys at the New African magazine for bringing us pertinent information about our beautiful continent.

I consider myself a little bit knowledgeable about African affairs, but your report on Namibia left me totally flummoxed.

I was (until I read your piece) a great admirer of former President Sam Nujoma whom I considered a great Liberation leader. I honestly thought he was more than populous beard and fiery revolutionary rhetoric until I read the type of agreement he signed in the name of independence.

Little wonder that these agreements are forever shrouded in great mystery.

We can contrast what happened in the colonies in Africa with what transpired after the second European Civil war when Germany was made to regurgitate everything she stole from her European colonies and also paid compensation. In Africa, they think that we should be satisfied with a flag and some wretched smiles!

With the editor’s permission, I shared an extract on my Facebook wall, and the flurry of traffic I received was rather gratifying, as they greatly opened my eyes to the happenings in that beautiful but sadly racially-stratified land.

I can only express my shock and sadness as I read the lamentations of many Namibians about how their people lost all during the German invasions and how, up till today, young German boys prevent them from visiting their ancestral graves to pay homage!

Fortunately, at least for me, this is not a situation we experienced in West Africa.

Having stayed in Europe where I did not see a single African owning even one square inch of European land, I cannot imagine how I will react to Europeans fencing hundred upon hundred square kilometers of my people’s land in the name of private property.

It is very sad and troubling to read the depth of pent-up anger among my Namibian Facebook contacts. In my humble opinion, the correct question to ask now is to whom are we doing a favour by pretending that all is jolly and well in Namibia? Truth has a way of emerging however hard they try to suppress it, and however long, injustices have ways of blowing up in the face of its perpetrators.

Do the Western agencies, organisations and governments that perpetrated and abetted this gross injustice hope that it will last forever? Do they really believe that Namibians will somehow just forget about their ancestral lands? Doesn’t Zimbabwe provide ample evidence on what will happen when we bury our heads in the sand and pretend not to understand that historic injustices need to be rectified?

Your report quoted a 'SWAPO intellectual' talking about the incapacity of the government to act. I got hold of the Namibian Constitution and I found these relevant sections the Namibian government could use to get its land back from the absentee landlords.

Article 16: Property

(1) All persons shall have the right in any part on Namibia to acquire, own and dispose of all forms of immovable and movable property individually or in association with others and to bequeath their property to their heirs or legatees: provided that Parliament may be legislation prohibit or regulate as it deems expedient the right to acquire property by persons who are not Namibian citizens.

(2) The State or a competent body or organ authorised by law may expropriate property in the public interest subject to the payment of just compensation, in accordance with requirements and procedures to be determined by Act of Parliament.

There is no government anywhere that can claim impotence when it comes to overriding public interests. If the new elite in Namibia will have the political will, I think they can do a lot to help their own people.

Laws are made by men and could be undone by man. Section 16:2 of the Namibian constitution empowers the government to act. If the occupiers refuse to play ball, the government, through parliament CAN and SHOULD enact legislation confiscate the land and pay the same compensation the land-owners claim that they paid.

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