By Andreas Thomas
Windhoek – Namibian President Hage Geingob on Thursday unveiled the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into claims of Ancestral Land Rights and Restitution.The Commission and its 15 members are appointed in terms Section 1 of the Commissions Act 1947 (Act No. 8 of 1947), is in line with the resolutions of the Second National Land Conference held in October 2018 in Windhoek.
The Commission headed by High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele is tasked to investigate ancestral land claims by indigenous communities and produce a report that will assist Government and affected parties to effectively implement the resolutions of the national land conference.
In his Charge to the commission, the President highlighted the complexity of ancestral land claims, and emphasized the primacy of peace and stability by ensuring that the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the Constitution are not infringed upon.
“There is no doubt that the issue of dispossession from Ancestral Land requires concerted efforts for healing and provision of social justice. The devastating effects and aftershocks of the brutal policies of colonialism and apartheid continue to reverberate in the psyche of Namibians to this day.
“The untold suffering experienced by our nation cannot be ignored or circumvented, but must be faced head on. Your experience and expertise is being called upon to interrogate these matters extensively in order to identify statutory and policy reforms that will help buttress our efforts to redress communities that were subjected to untold injustices, which resulted in the dispossession of their ancestral land,” President Geingob said during the commissioning at State House.
The terms of reference for the commission include the generation of a common understanding and consensus on the definition of ancestral land rights and restitution. It is also mandated to commission a study to identify communities who have lost ancestral land and establish the sizes of ancestral land lost.
Further mandate include the identification of alternative restorative measures to restore social justice and ensure economic empowerment of the affected communities and the use of reparation from the former colonial powers for restitution.
The enquiry on ancestral land claims is a major shift by the Swapo-led government that has been reluctant to entertain the matter.
The Ovaherero, Namas and San communities that historically suffered colonial injustice have been calling for the restitution of ancestral land.
During the intervening period from the late nineteenth century, indigenous groups where dispossessed of their rich pastoral land. The land was then parceled out to white settlers who set up commercial farming, national parks and mining.
Soon after independence in 1990, the government introduced the land reform programme to undo colonial injustices including the extreme inequality of land ownership. But the programme failed and mostly benefited many high profile government officials and the ruling party Swapo royalist.