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Namibia: Land Grabs - Lac fears the worst

22 July 2015
New Era

The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) has implored President Hage Geingob to "personally" communicate what plans his government has in place to address the land issue..

Such action, says the organisation, could ease potentially explosive confrontations between the Affirmative Repositioning-led landless masses and the country's security forces.

In a statement issued yesterday, LAC also asked AR to apply brakes on its plans to spearhead legally unsanctioned mass land occupations countrywide - saying this could spark "wholesale civil unrest and strife".

Meanwhile, AR issued a statement yesterday in which it welcomed the presidency's plan to continue dialogue with land activists ahead of the scheduled July 31 deadline, on which land could be illegally occupied countrywide.

"This is a welcome development and in line with what we have repeatedly stated over the past nine months that we are willing to engage with all parties between 21 November 2014 and 31 July 2015," AR said.

LAC feels that the ten remaining days to the AR deadline must see solutions hammered out so that the planned illegal occupation of land is avoided at all costs.

"The potential that this dire need, of a large portion of our society, has to create an explosive confrontation with security forces should not be underestimated," the human rights group said.

"This is something that no Namibian would like to see. Land cannot be taken without the due process of law. This is what our law provides and if we make exceptions, even in a situation like this where constitutional rights may be in question, the path thereafter can only lead to lawlessness and a breakdown of the fabric of our society."

LAC believes government will not allow the grabbing of land to take place as this would in all probability affect international investment in Namibia as well as political and economic stability, and will contribute nothing positive to the growth of democracy, which includes the provision of socio-economic rights, like housing.

"On the other hand, are we really surprised that those in need have chosen to make their voices heard? While the LAC can never condone any unlawful actions, we also cannot close our eyes to the despair of our fellow Namibians who only want a place to call their own.

"Public frustration about the lack of meaningful progress on land issues and signs of corruption in access to land are understandable, and we urge government to address these concerns, by lawful means, with real urgency."

"The Legal Assistance Centre therefore calls upon our President Hage Geingob to personally enter the fray and communicate what plans are in place to address the housing problem. We believe that this will indicate that government's response to the AR movement is not to batten down the hatches and dig in their heels, but rather to face the situation head on with acknowledgement of the problem and with relevant plans considered and in place."

"At the same time, we call upon the landless and the AR movement to consider seriously how their actions can move Namibia to a place where it has not been since independence - a place of wholesale civil unrest and strife. Let us not go back to a place that is still a very real part of Namibian memory," LAC concluded.

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