WINDHOEK – The Presidential Commission into Claims on Ancestral Land Rights and Restitution yesterday told President Hage Geingob that there is strong opposition to the proposed sale of Namibia’s biggest privately-owned game reserve, Erindi.
Some communities have called for the sale to be put on hold pending the outcome of the commission’s work, commissioners told the Head of State.
This was revealed by the commission’s chairperson Judge Shafimana Ueitele yesterday when he briefed President Geingob on the progress the commission has made so far into the ancestral land inquiry.
He said an amount between N$10 million to N$15 million is needed to cover the commission’s assignment.
Erindi, located southeast of Omaruru, has been on the market for five years for nearly N$2 billion by Erindi (Pty) Ltd, the company that owns the reserve.
Following vigorous criticism by some Namibians who are against the selling of 71 000 hectares Erindi Private Game Reserve to Mexican billionaire businessman Alberto Baillères, Geingob last month said Namibians should embrace and welcome investors instead of chasing them away.
Ueitele mentioned that there is the perception that the current resettlement programme is skewed and imbalanced and does not address the land needs of the communities that were disposed of their ancestral land through German and apartheid colonialism.
Some of these communities accordingly asked that the implementation of the resettlement programme be put on hold pending the outcome of the recommendations from the commission of inquiry.
Communities also expressed the need for the expansion of existing communal areas, through the state buying and or expropriation of adjacently located farms, after payment of the required compensation.
Ueitele said the commissions’ view to these requests is that, after a thorough inquiry, it will come forth with the necessary recommendations to the President.
These include that the topic of lost ancestral land should not be limited to the pre-independence era only, but that it be expanded to the post-independence era.
This, he says, is in view of expanding urban centres where a number of people are alleging to have lost their ancestral land to expanding towns.
The other is the demarcation of political regions for electoral and governance purposes that led to conflicting boundaries of traditional authorities jurisdictions
The commission said there are people who are trying to influence the inquiry process since its election year, hence they remind communities to stick to the issue of land.
Geingob said the issue of land is not a joke, and if taken for political gain to instigate communities, it can lead to civil war.
“The effort we are undertaking is not a joke. This issue of land used by some people for their own purposes can put this country at civil war. Political who mostly fail to do that to instigate people using emotions. We are seeing signs of this happening,” Geingob said.
Opposition Landless People Movement (LPM) has indicated that it will not participate and vowed to discourage their members to appear before the commission during its consultative work.
The Commission commenced with the desktop review study of the historical and legal background relating to colonialism, land dispossession and apartheid, it said.
“Even before the commission could commence with its work, we learned of plans by some members of our society to either boycott and or challenge the work of the commission. As a result, the commission at its second meeting resolved to pay courtesy calls to key stakeholders with the view of introducing the commission and its terms of references to them,” Ueitele revealed.
Ueitele said the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) also confirmed their agreement to meet the commission, however, they did not turn up for the courtesy call.
The commission was appointed on February 21, and commenced with its work during March.
Approximately 500 different people have been engaged across Namibia so far, all of whom have expressed their gratitude to both President Geingob and the Namibian government for setting up the commission, Ueitele said.