Gigantic colonial fraud: Liberation without repossession of land

Dear Editor,

AFRICA and Africans lost their valuable asset, the land, to colonialism.  When the Europeans partitioned the continent of Africa amongst themselves they were not concerned about anything else except land. Namibia is three decades old after political decolonisation and our precious asset (the land) is not yet in our hands.

We are committing Gigantic Colonial Fraud according to a paper presented by Dr. Motsoko Pheko at the Africa Century International African Writers’ Conference, held in Johannesburg, on the 8th November 2013. Pheko (2013) opined that “Liberation without repossession of land is a gigantic colonial fraud.”

In Namibia, a radical repossession of land is contaminated by the inclusion of “protection of property clause” in chapter three of our constitution that deals with fundamental human rights. The acceptance of the 1982 Constitutional Principles by our leaders was the seed of a Gigantic Colonial Fraud.

The Wars of resistance (Genocide) at the turn of the century and the War of National Liberation were launched with the cardinal aim of repossessing the land. Honourable Nahas Angula opined that “the universal right to property clause should not have been made a fundamental right in the Namibian Constitution that was adopted at independence in 1990 due to the imbalances and unequal property distribution that existed during colonial times” (Angula, 2017).

Our leaders are now compelled to promulgate a plethora of acts and regulations in order to ensure the return of land to the indigenous original African owners.  Article 16 of our Constitution is at our disposal. We only lack political will!

Ruth Hall from the University of Western Cape (UWC) asserted that “a market-based approach was tried out in Southern Africa” (Hall, 2018). She explicated her arguments on ENCA TV-YouTube, as follow:

• “In Zimbabwe it was part of the Lancaster House Agreement in 1980 which was the basis of independence. So it was a compromised independence which gave rise to the Willing Seller-Willing Buyer approach;

• In SA, the World Bank  came to SA in the early 1990s and proposed that we should follow the Zimbabwean model; and

• Similarly, international donors and international financial institutions went to the Namibia Land Conference in 1991 and promoted a Market-based Land Reform”.

Hall (2018) further argued that “these were negotiated transitions in which the status of property rights of white minorities were actually the centrepieces of those negotiations”.

Minister of Land Reform Utoni Nujoma cemented these revelations when he responded to questions from the ENCA news journalist on issues of sell-out, compromise and acceptance of the Willing Seller-Willing Buyer principle, when he said “there were no other alternatives and as freedom fighters we were also tired of staying in the bush” (Nujoma, 2018).

Our leaders betrayed the revolution when they accepted an already-cooked Constitution (by Five Western Contact Group) which was defined to protect the settlers’ assets, even after decolonisation. The 1991 Land Conference did not come up with explicit modalities or measures on how to return the land to indigenous original owners. These owners are now match-boxed in barren land called the Bantustans or Reserves. 

In SA, the Constitution is clear and explicit on the issue of land, especially section 25(7). According to Kamerika (2017), “a total of 36 489 ancestral land claims were settled involving about 85 000 households, in SA.” This is a good example to be emulated by our Presidential Commission into Claims on Ancestral Land Rights and Restitution.  Adherence to the implementation modalities is another thing according to which the credibility of the Commission will be judged, one day.

It is my revolutionary wish that the Commission’s consultations (Ueitele Commission) were targeted, effective, efficient and sustainable. This Commission has one cardinal task, namely to exonerate us from the Gigantic Colonial Fraud and fulfil the wishes of our great fathers and mothers who died fighting foreign occupation of our motherland. We owe it to them. It is in your hands! Give the land back to the people. Do not commit a Gigantic Colonial Fraud as argued by Dr Motsoko Pheko.

Mavejapi Katuuo

Retired Public Servant

This opinion piece is written in terms of the

Provisions of the Namibian Constitution.