THE Commission of Inquiry into Claims of Ancestral Land Rights and Restitution after over a year of countrywide consultations has released findings that legitimise contentions that indigenous groups lost land during colonialisation and has recommended that a restitution legislation be enacted to remedy the loss.
Based on claims in the testimonies received and reviewed by the Commission, there is evidence, backed by historical facts, that all indigenous communities were, in one way or another, affected and lost ancestral land through the process of colonialism in general, and systematic land dispossession by settlers and colonial administrators in particular.
As such, the Commission in its report findings has recommended that Parliament, through a consultative process, enact an ancestral land rights claim and restitution legislation no later than two years from the end of the enquiry.
The Commission, Chaired by Judge Shafimana Ueitele, stated that both the process and its ultimate product must remain consistent with constitutional, international and human right legal principles of rule of law, remedy for human rights violations, non-discrimination, fairness, and justice for all, whilst providing legality in terms of definitional, legal objects, frameworks, mandate and institutional structures to consider ancestral land claims and restitution.
Furthermore, the Commission recommended that government revamp current land reform policies and programmes to ensure equitable access to land, and guaranteed land rights and tenure.
“Government must, by the year 2030, ensure that the previously disadvantaged Namibians through the different land reform programmes (i.e. AALS and NRSP) gain access to and control over at least 50% of the agricultural (commercial) land; and 70% by the year 2040,” the report advised.
In its findings, the Commission outlined land ownership in the country and stated that despite the land reform programme adopted by the Government after independence, land distribution in the country has remained skewed in favour of a white minority who largely benefitted from the racially based land policies of the colonial era.
The Commission detailed that of the 39,728,364 hectares of freehold commercial agricultural land, previously advantaged persons own 27,863,813 hectares (70%), with the previously disadvantaged persons and the Government owning only 6,373,441 hectares (16%) and 5,491,110 hectares (14%), respectively.
“The change from approximately 100% ownership of freehold agricultural land by the previously advantaged in 1990 to 70% ownership as in 2018 statistics, a proportionate decline of 30%, is a reflection of the rate of delivery of the Namibian Government’s Land Reform programme over 25 years,” the report noted.
The Commission received a total of 784 written submissions, of which 50.1% were received from persons aged 60 years and above.
Only 2.1% of the testimonies were submitted by youths, based on the definition of youths as persons aged below 35 years.
The report detailed that from evidence presented in the testimonies, there are claims of ancestral land loss from all regions of the country.
Interestingly, most testimonies from Zambezi Region (88%) make claims of ancestral land loss due to colonial dispossession by means that included proclamations of national parks and forced removals, for example from the Nkasa and Rupara Islands.
Testimonies from Kavango East, Kavango West, Oshana, Oshikoto and the Ohangwena regions have less than 50% claims of loss of ancestral land due to colonial dispossession.
Testimonies from regions in the central and southern parts of the country under this category, in addition to specific laws and proclamations, generally highlight the 1904-1908 Ovaherero and Nama anti-colonial wars of resistance, as well as the Odendaal Plan of 1962/63 among the main causes of loss of ancestral land by affected communities.