Job Amupanda (pictured, below) has his work and plans cut out regarding what needs to be done about land ownership and dispossession in his country, Namibia, which is the 5th most unequal nation in the world. An ex-spokesman of the ruling SWAPO party's Youth League and a holder of three degrees (two BAs and a Masters) in Political Science and History, this 26-year-old Namibian and two of his colleagues, Dimbulukeni Nauyoma and George Kambala, are the leaders of a land revolt movement calling for change and are now targeting 31 July as their D-Day. Our Editor-at-Large Baffour Ankomah interviewed Amupanda in Windhoek. You may need to read this sitting down.
Q: Why are you and your colleagues trying to rock the boat in a country famous for its stability and peace?
A: Well, that is a good question. But don't forget that land dispossession in Namibia was not only in terms of the German colonisers forcibly taking land from our people. After the Second World War, soldiers who fought in the war on the victorious Allied side were given land here as a reward for their services. An additional 7 million hectares of Namibian land was thus given to foreign soldiers as a reward.
Q: Where did the soldiers come from--South Africa, Britain?
A: From everywhere! Remember that Namibia suffered 106 years of German and South African colonialism, and during this time a lot of our productive land was forcibly taken away from our people, first by the Germans and later by the South Africans who gained control of Namibia from 1915 onwards. That is why 60% of the productive land in Namibia is under the occupation of the settlers. And you ask me why we are rocking the boat? I will tell you.
It is not just land that they took from our people; they also took our women and cattle too. But land was far more important because land is the master means of production, it is why we have the current statistical reality of 95% of the economy being in the hands of 5% of the population. The whites alone own more than 90% of the economy. And this wealth was created from the land.
Q: Has the land issue always been contentious, as now?
A: Land was at the core of the liberation struggle. Unfortunately, in July 1991, barely a year after independence, the government convened a National Land Conference at which our leaders became totally drunk with the reconciliation project, and therefore forgave a lot of things and told us we were now equal with the whites and that we should work together and build this country and together enjoy its fruits.
But that is not what has happened. It is amazing what a black person goes through in this country or how high he has to jump to get by. This reality makes reconciliation evil and unjust because reconciliation without justice is evil. The 1991 land conference took a lot of lousy decisions, apologetic decisions, including the one which says the government will continue with the willing seller-willing buyer principle regarding land reform.
But a willing seller is effectively a willing thief. Let's say I storm your house and I take away your furniture and TV set. Then your child who was not at home comes back and says to me, "please bring back my daddy's television", and I say "Oh no, things have changed, you must buy it back from me". But I didn't buy it from your father in the first place. That is stolen property in my possession, and no matter how long I keep it, it cannot change the fact that I stole it from your father. To ask you to buy it back from me is not right. But that is a willing seller for you. However, colonised people can easily be sold dreams, and this is what we have done in post-independence Africa--agreeing to such a monstrous thing as willing seller-willing buyer.
Q: Willing seller-willing buyer did not work in Zimbabwe. Why is the SWAPO government still persisting with it?
A: I hope you can put that question to our leadership, because while our people have been waiting, hoping that willing seller-willing buyer will solve the land issue, the settlers are becoming cleverer and transferring the...