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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Kunze

Whose Land? Whose Resources?

As we were reading “Understanding Namibia” before arriving in Windhoek, one of the chapters that resonated most with me before, during, and even after the trip was on the topic of “Land Matters.” The book highlights heavily the political influence and decisions made regarding who has access to land, what parts of the land, and even what quality of the land. Prior to independence, the majority of the land that contained resources, such as marble or diamonds, or was farmable with better soil, was owned by German families through colonization. The majority of Black and Colored families were pushed to the outskirts of the city of Windhoek, to Katatura or Khomasdal and divided by tribe. Post-independence, there was ample promise from SWAPO of restitution to the Black families of Namibia that have suffered economically due to a lack of access to land for farming and living. Today, you still see the consequences of apartheid and the separation of people by tribe, as many people still remain in Katatura within the neighborhoods they were originally separated by. In addition to that, there has been a growing population of the “landless” people, or what some refer to as “squatter camps.” These would the shack houses made of sheet metal that are growing in numbers for miles and miles away from the center of Windhoek, out into the mountain sides. These are the houses that have no electricity, no running water, and according to the government have no jurisdiction to be placing homes; however, with one of the largest poverty to wealth gaps in the world, this means there are masses in the impoverished and the government has little control over the situation.


[Photo of the Landless Homes]

Since independence, this issue has been repeatedly addressed election after election, but still remained a slow process to this happening. Recently, the Namibian newspaper reported an article about the government and banks investing in 4,500 low-cost homes to be places throughout Katatura. On the one hand this is a great positive event happening in the area, and provides opportunity for a fair number of people; however, the homes do not come without a cost people, raising again the question of who is going to get access the houses. My impression thus far has been that Katatura has been and still remains a location many elites do not step foot into often, and even on the outskirts of it the government has little control over how the people are living and where they set up homes; however, the president himself was reported stating shacks around the city annoy him, and he wants them gone in five years. To me this suggests that many of the “Landless” people are viewed an eye-sore and a burden to the vision the government has, but not necessarily a problem the they need to address. As the government chooses to move into these spaces and apply their authority, it raises questions as to how these masses who cannot afford the homes will be effected.


[Clip From the Namibian Newspaper on New Homes]

Even in the cases of Black families getting access to land that was promised, Melber brought up the critical point of who, of the people promised land, are actually acquiring it. In particular, the book highlights how many of the “Black Elites” in Namibia were the ones getting first-dibs on access to the land, and in particular were reserving the higher quality spaces for themselves. Additionally, some elites who were acquiring land turned back around to re-sell it to either German or Chinese investors. After speaking to a few Namibian citizens about what they thought about the land issue, everyone seemed very informed about the corruption of who has access to what spaces, and who gets to use those spaces and how. One person brought up how the land out by the coast, which contains many of the natural resources the country exports, is being sold off to Chinese investors and the elites who own the land are pocketing the profit for a small margin. Another person brought up the issue of the farm land, and how yes some Black families are living on them now but they still do not own the land and reap the benefits of it. Rather they are employees to those who own the land, and they are required to meet quotas for the owners in order to remain on the land. This issue of land has become a platform topic for some of the independent government parties running for office this year, as some speak out saying Namibia is moving to slow on addressing the issue.


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