Namibia’s Prime Minister pleads for calm over land demands

Windhoek – Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has implored Namibians, especially the youth to desist from expressing their emotions through violent and destructive public demonstrations, saying development can only take place in a situation of orderliness.

The premier’s plea comes at the time of heightened tension among the youths, who are disconcerted by the absence and unaffordability of residential land in urban areas, a situation that is threatening public order in the country.

A group of young Namibians under the banner of the Affirmative Repositioning movement have given the government, specifically local authorities until July 31, 2015 to provide them with affordable residential land or risk land grabbing.

The movement, co-founded by suspended youth leader of the ruling Swapo Party, turned-land activist Job Amupanda, has carried out a successful nationwide land mass application at municipalities across Namibia mostly by the landless, whose majority are young people.

Tensions over land reached a boiling point recently after the Namibian Police was called in to diffuse a situation that degenerated into chaos when a group of land hungry youths barricaded the Katima Mulilo Town Council’s management into offices demanding to be given land.

Prime Minister Kuugongelwa-Amadhila who empathises with the public frustration over land issue said the government has been working around the clock to find solution to the problem.

“There has always been urgency on the part of government to address the issue of land reform and redistribution,” the premier said in an interview.

“And in recognition of this, before even the issue of Affirmative Repositioning came about, the Swapo Party had established an internal committee of its political bureau to specifically look at how we can expedite the process of land reform.

“And later on it was decided that this committee be established at Cabinet level and with the Office of the Prime Minister chairing it through the Deputy Prime Minister. And that committee held several meetings, and some even at a retreat that was held outside town where we looked at the range of issues that needed to be addressed in order to expedite the process. And we came up with a range of recommendations and these recommendations are now being pursued under the coordination of that same committee,” she said.

The premier highlighted that “this issue (land) has never taken a back seat in the programmes of the government. It maybe that it has not been discussed every day in public, giving an impression that it is not a priority. For instance, the mass housing started before the Affirmative Repositioning, so there is definitely an unwavering commitment on the part of government to speed up land delivery”.

With regard to threat of nationwide land grabbing by the youth land activists, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila warned against lawlessness, saying it leads to more hardship than solutions.

“Often when one is experiencing a situation of hardship, you feel you are justified to take whatever action you deem necessary. But the reality is that nothing can be achieved in a situation where there is no order, it is true you cannot say a person who is affected negatively by a situation should not say anything, no one is saying that. We all have the right to express ourselves and as a government we are willing to listen to the concerns that are being expressed by our people.

“But we have to acknowledge the fact that development can only take place in a situation of orderliness. The contrary has never happened anywhere in the world. We should safeguard the peace and stability and the orderliness in order that development continues to take place,” said the prime minister.

Affirmative Repositioning this past week said it will forge ahead with the land occupation if authorities failed to meet their demand for affordable land by July 31, 2015.

“Our observation is that the landless people of Namibia have mobilized themselves and are ready to occupy land on the 31st July 2015,” the movement said in a statement issued June 30, 2015.

The movement also held a legal consultative forum comprised of young Namibian lawyers, who for the past two months sifted through the country’s legislation analysing the housing crises, studying the proposed solutions, and examining the legal instruments which relate to the delivery of housing and serviced land.

“We do however believe that it is in the best interest of the country and particularly the courts if the land and housing issue is resolved amicably, through the joint efforts of the executive, the legislature and civil society as we envision that after the 31st July 2015, the Namibian courts will be over burdened with land related matters,” the land activists said in the statement, issued by the Chairperson of the AR Legal Forum Steering Committee, Henry Homateni Shimutwikeni.

July 2015
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