A commoner

By Kelvin Chiringa
December 2016 & January 2017
Prime Business

The ownership of land is a bold expression of the liberty of man, his basis of strength and survival and by far the most priced of chattels, and mankind’s history is rightly riddled with the scars of war at whose center lies the land question.
And by no shadow of doubt, this century old question has never at one time in Africa as a whole been awarded an answer to, especially so in this pocket of Africa where the “land of the brave” has transmogrified into a “land of the landless brave”.
Yet it still remains beyond dispute that the land question has over the past 26 years of political liberty, remained, quoting Hage Geingob, “a very emotive issue in Namibia” and it is the noble obligation shouldered upon every self-confessed revolutionary to, as Geingob further articulates, ”try to tackle it with great care.”

However, the national leadership at the fore front of the entire struggle for economic emancipation have so far taken so much of a ”nervous cautiousness” and often times “silent diplomacy” much to the delight of the beneficiaries of the precolonial brutal land conquest and the disgruntlement of the economically bankrupt black masses.

Caught in this dilemma of how “to right the wrong without being ultimately wrong” and the urgency of responding to the pleas of a majority wallowing in abject poverty, Namibians, black and white, perhaps have lessons to learn from the land revolution that took its tour over neighboring Zimbabwe.

Robert Mugabe’s “Third revolution” was a noble idea of correcting a one hundred year plus old “wrong” yet the process and trajectory which it took became so tragically chaotic owing to a deficiency in proper protraction while Mugabe’s appetite for power saw him capitalising on the anger of the landless for political mileage.

The end result saw the political and economic wheels of a once pioneering national powerhouse bogged in the mud of deprivation and the outright demonisation of the office and person of Mugabe who today is a pale shadow of the former vibrant self while questions of whether the land question was given an answer to remains a bone of contention across Africa.

He became the epitome of what one may term, “a daringly iconoclastic heroic failure.”

Now faced with the haunting sobering realities of the chaotic attempts at land from Zimbabwe, nobody seems to go down that path, and while the Zimbabwean case and its paralysing effect remains “shocking”, does it mean Africans can never redistribute land and still remain economically vibrant?

Sadly, the camp of monopoly capital seems to use the “Zimbabwean situation” as part of its crude scare tactics and stall the process yet for the Afro-technocrat, surely where there is a wheel there is a way and the urgent question facing us to the face is, “How best can land be shared equitably without upsetting the economic scales?”

The blueprint to land redistribution takes off from the spring board of political will, conscience and a burgeoning desire to share available resources in a transparent manner, conscious of the racial imbalances and guided by the spirit of a “new generation” kind of progress.
The beneficiaries of the brutal conquest of the “native” Namibians have to understand that, foremost, this land was stolen, hence land redistribution should be the uncritical commitment of pacifying the prospects of possible “winds of change” as well as the radicalization of the volatile black community.
From that vantage, the apportioning of arable land should not be a tribal affair while it must be recognised that the willing seller and willing buyer modus operandi is a pipe dream which will take a life time to have the desired effect.

So far, government has cold feet when it comes to properly executing the expropriation of land, and given the fact that no one wants to go down like how the “sunk ship” of Zimbabwe capsized, GRN’s feet dragging is quite understandable.
However, with policies and legislation in place the many foreigners who own huge tracks of land cannot have any other option but to share a considerable portion of their farms with previously disadvantaged black Namibians, in this way they avoid the chilling risk of losing everything.

With the great amount of knowledge these farmers have, GRN has to task them to, on a yearly basis provide technical assistance to the newly empowered black farmers such that they reach the same levels of production that bolsters the economy.
The critical lesson is, land can no longer be taken back through invasions and uprisings, nor can the revolutionary object of empowerment be hijacked for egotistical political reasons, and thus, a more civil, more inclusive and intellectual approach has to be executed.

If sharing is better than expropriation, then the act itself should not be treated as a choice on the part of every individual colonial beneficiary, but the only option in the quest to save an entire generation from displacement as happened with the “Rhodies” of Zimbabwe.

Yet if sharing is wrong, as the Germany Ambassador to Namibia Christian Matthias Schlaga would suggest when he said, ”No one should be forced to share his wealth,” then all and sundry have to brace up for the potentialities of the all-encompassing unforgiving  “winds of rage”.

It is indeed a path not even any contemporary “intellectual rebel” would risk intentionally opting, hence the spirit of reconciliation has to be tried and tested in the blast furnace of ceding part of the means of production and thus dismantle the prevailing proto-feudal land ownership pattern that today has shredded the Namibian house.