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February 07, 2011

Namibia president frustrated by slow pace of land reform

by Felix Njini

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba has publicly expressed frustration at the slow pace of the country's land redistribution programme, a process which he urged government to swiftly address.

Pohamba told the country's first cabinet session in 2011 that the largely discredited willing buyer willing seller principle had been a failure and implored the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement to speedily finalise the Consolidated Draft Land Bill and the implementation of small scale farming projects.

The slow pace of the land reform programme should not be tolerated, Pohamba warned in what appears to the first warning shots of government intending to take rapid steps to finalise the skewed land ownership patterns in the country, which came about because of the colonial administration.

'Despite ongoing efforts by the government to redistribute land through the willing-buyer willing-seller policy, land reform remains a serious challenge. This requires urgent action and I am pleased that the ministry of lands and resettlement will soon finalise the consolidated draft land Bill and the implementation of small scale farming projects,' Pohamba told cabinet.

He also suggested that government strengthens and expands its post settlement support to resettled farmers.

In a wide ranging speech which slammed corruption and civil service ineptitude, Pohamba urged cabinet ministers to adopt a no-nonsense approach to service delivery. To strengthen its monitoring roles, the government has brought back quarterly progress reports, a programme which Pohamba said has not been consistently implemented.

But it was the President's stinging rebuke to ministers and the civil service to cut on foreign trips and size of their delegations when travelling that is likely to gain succor with an impatient and frustrated public.

Pohamba himself has taken the lead in cutting down on the number of his supporting staff accompanying him on foreign and local trips, he said.

'All ministers and permanent secretaries are directed to avoid unnecessary local and foreign travels.

When official missions are undertaken, the number of officials accompanying senior officials must be kept to a minimum of only essential staff. I have undertaken to do the same.' Pohamba said.

The President urged action on raising economic growth levels to around 7 percent and said authorities must mercilessly slap down corruption.

'The snake of corruption must be hit very hard on the head,' Pohamba said.

He also strongly urged authorities to deal decisively with crime and limit the number of firearms circulating in the public domain.

'I believe that it is necessary for government to introduce mechanisms to limit the ease with which firearms can be acquired in Namibia and to ensure that firearms do not end up in the hands of criminals.'

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