…I will not form a political party
…I will remain in Swapo
By Patience Nyangove and Marianne Nghidengwa
LANDS Reform deputy minister, Bernadus Swartbooi has said that he will never resign from his position emphasizing that he will only leave office once President Hage Geingob orders him to.
In an exclusive interview with Confidente Wednesday, Swartbooi explained that it was President Geingob who ordered him to resign after he refused to apologize to his senior Utoni Nujoma.
“I never resigned. I will never resign. I don’t know who is going to give them that resignation letter. I won’t do it. I will not resign unless the President says I should like he said before. When I came to this office, the President approached me saying he wanted my skills, energy and input on his team and I accepted. For me to leave, he should approach me like he did back then to say that he no longer is interested in my skills, energy and input,” Swartbooi said.
He added that his only fear now is that his signature might be forged on a fake resignation letter. “My only fear now is that since they lied about my resignation, they might forge my signature on a fake resignation letter.”
Swaartbooi would be the first deputy Minister to defy a presidential order for purportedly falling out of line. Fisheries Minister Bernard Esau and Omaheke Governor Festus Ueitele complied with previous presidential orders to publicly apologise after making politically undesirable comments in the past.
On Tuesday State House, insisted that Swartbooi either apologises or resigns. “During the meeting, the President pointed out that the Deputy Minister was appointed to serve under the Minister, support him and assist him at all times in execution of his functions. Swartbooi’s other quoted comments that he doesn’t work for Utoni Nujoma but for Geingob are also incorrect and therefore form the basis for a demand for an apology. The President further explained that despite differences of opinion that may exist between the Deputy Minister and the Minister, the choice by the Deputy Minister to use a public platform to launch an attack on his Minister was inappropriate. This is because there are many appropriate avenues through which such differences could have been handled.”
Contrary to reports that he might form a political party, Swartbooi said that he will not do so as he remains a loyal Swapo cadre.
“I am not going to form a political party. I was elected to serve the Swapo party. I remain committed to its values unless the party recalls me.”
Swartbooi also said he only differed with his senior on how the land reform programme should be implemented.
“Other communities sit on their ancestral land. The Zambezi and Kavango regions for instance also lost land. Ondonga also land especially in the Etosha area. The land losses were more profound in a very fundamental way with the Damara, Nama and Herero people. This does not mean others didn’t lose land. My approach to land reform is that it must be accompanied by accredited reforms which includes targeting very clearly and eventually the removal of the red line so that our people are able to have access to the European market as the others south of the red line have. You can’t say land reform and all we do is buy land south of the red line and allocate it. In that process we create friction because we misallocate land. We need to do a bigger things around communal land development in those regions so people have their fences and farm in a model that can enhance their wealth.”
Swartbooi added that land reform should also include access to capital. “Most black people that bought farms after independence lost or sold them to pay off capital amount and become impoverished. Their lives have been diminished because managing and expanding farms has become so expensive today. Our land reform has not even assisted those with capacity because we don’t develop the country as a whole and we don’t look at land reform broader than the purchase of farms from white people. We don’t look at developing communal land as we have done successfully in Kavango for instance. Additional pressure is put on resettlement but resettling those with money. Commercial farms have become expensive and only the state can afford to buy these farms. The affirmative action is so expensive as well because those that can go for affirmative action also come for resettlement. That’s where people say the rich get resettled. But those rich are not rich enough to buy resettlement farms.”
Swartbooi advised for the development of communal areas saying it is cheaper than purchasing commercial farms. “We don’t engage the community enough to give different models of how to do things. We have to improve infrastructure. All we do is buy farms south of the red line and resettle everyone south of the red line. That’s not how you develop a country because you live out other huge parts of the country undeveloped and that is unfair to all. “There are huge virgin lands lying idle. Government can use that to develop, sell and lease as through proper management. We need to develop new farms and not just buy and resettle people and live other parts undeveloped. What kind of approach is that? Land reform and reform of agriculture go hand in hand. Research here has shown that to buy commercial farm on average is N$ 1550 per hectare and to develop communal land on average is N$500 per hectare. It is very cheap to develop communal land where our people are. Instead of forcing them to move. “That development is far cheaper than to keep on buying commercial farms. Land reform is one of the most exciting projects that should unite this country and not divide it. We should collectively seek solutions, not to fight and where there are concerns they should be raised and understand each other in our historical contexts and also give space to each other and recognize each other’s history”.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015