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Namas and Hereros of Namibia demand their ancestral land back
WINDHOEK Namibia (Xinhua) -- Former land reform deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi is holding meetings across Namibia urging people to demand fairness in the resettlement process and the return of their ancestral land.

Swartbooi was fired by President Hage Geingob on Dec. 14 last year over comments he had said about land reform minister Utoni Nujoma.

Geingob fired Swartbooi after he had refused to apologize to Nujoma for accusing him of unfair land reform practices.

Some of the comments Swartbooi made were that Nujoma was ignoring people from the Nama and Herero tribes whose ancestral land in the south and east of the country was taken away by mostly the Germans between 1904 and 1908.

Swartbooi, a former governor for the //Karas region in the south of the country and a Nama himself, also accused Nujoma of resettling people from other regions.

Some of the demands being made by Swartbooi and a number of land activists is that the Land Bill should not be re-tabled before consultations have been made.

They are also demanding that Nujoma should convene the second land conference to address the issue of returning ancestral land to those who belong to the dispossessed families.

Nujoma had indicated that he would re-table the Land Bill in the National Assembly this year regardless of whether the second land conference has been held or not.

The Land Bill was first tabled in the National Assembly in November 2016 but had to be withdrawn after some opposition parliamentarians had raised several issues among them lack of proper consultations.

Nujoma has also postponed indefinitely the second land conference that was supposed to have been held last year, saying there was no money.

The cancellation of the land conference has been at the centre of controversy especially after Nujoma announced that he would be re-tabling the Land Bill.

Namibia’s president Hage Geingob has, however, ordered Nujoma not to re-table the Land Bill until consultations have been completed.

Geingob said this when he spoke during the official opening of the 2017 judicial year in Windhoek Wednesday.

The order comes after Swartbooi had held three meetings, with the first held at Keetmanshoop on Saturday and another at Maltahöhe (300 kilometers from Windhoek) on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Swartbooi met some landless people in Aminius Constituency, Omaheke, a region where mostly the OvaHerero people live.

These meetings are being attended by some traditional chiefs who are considered as among the most powerful when it comes to the land issue.

At Keetmanshoop meeting on Saturday, the people elected members to the Landless People’s Movement that will organize a Landless People’s Conference set for Sept. 2017.

The movement has also said there will be a march on the National Assembly when it opens Feb. 14 to protest against unfair land resettlement program.

"Freedom without land is not freedom," Swartbooi told the Keetmanshoop meeting Saturday, adding that nobody was born land less but was deprived of land.

He appealed to Geingob saying:

"We say Mr Geingob, give us back our land.

"For Mr Geingob we are hungry and we are thirsty. As land-dispossessed citizens, we demand our ancestral land."

Describing the Land Bill as a notorious and ridiculous working document, Swartbooi said any law on land must only be tabled after the inclusion of and buy-in from those who were dispossessed.

He told the people who attended the Maltahöhe meeting that there is need to realign the land reform in the country.

"We will not make inputs to the narrow dictates of the government reform agenda.

"It is not in our interest and it is not in the national interest," he said.

At Aminius, Swartbooi said the landless should not be silenced just because of fear of being fired or risk being labelled as tribalists.

"We will all be silenced by the grave, that’s the only way for us," he said.

The Swapo Party to which Swartbooi is still a member and parliamentarian has said they are studying the comments the former deputy minister made with a view of taking appropriate action.

The party’s secretary general Nangolo Mbumba told the media Tuesday that as a party they were "organizing their thoughts before" regarding Swartbooi.

Swartbooi has, however, dared the party to drag him before a disciplinary hearing, saying that he did not do anything that affects the party negatively.


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