As Namibians become increasingly seized with land matters in the run-up to the second national land conference, which is scheduled for early October, it’s necessary to review the access to information situation around land questions.
And in this regard it’s become increasingly clear that ongoing discussions around emotive land matters are largely happening while data and information deficits abound.

If Namibia is to resolve its longstanding land issues, which have become controversy-laden over recent years, then the discussions need to be fact-based and fair, as well as conducted in good faith.

Not only that, as many perspectives as possible need to find audience during consultations and at the land summit itself.

The importance of evidence in guiding discussions and shaping the eventual resolutions cannot be overemphasised, and the need for such an evidence base was already articulated at the first land conference in 1991.

Amongst the 24 resolutions/recommendations of that conference was one which dealt with the issue of evidence based decision-making around land issues.

Specifically, recommendation 8 from the National Conference on Land Reform and the Land Question (of 1991) clearly states: “In view of the need to establish authoritative data and arrive at sound policy recommendations, conference recommends that a technical committee should be established to evaluate the facts regarding under-utilised land, absentee ownership, viable farm sizes in different regions and multiple ownership of farms; to make appropriate recommendations for the acquisition and reallocation of such land identified; and to assess possible forms of taxation on commercial farmland and the economic units to which taxation should apply.”

Given this clear call for producing the evidence needed for sound and credible decision-making on land issues, the question has to be why this recommendation was never implemented?

If the current land discussions and debates had the benefit of such evidence, would the issues be so emotion and conflict laden? To an extent probably, but arguably less so.

As it stands, most participants and observing citizens and commentators appear to be entering land debates and the upcoming land conference without the necessary and critical facts of the situation to hand, while government probably sits with an information advantage on all land questions.

This asymmetrical information environment will not produce optimal outcomes and has so far only contributed to undermining trust in government’s positions and approach to the roiling land issues.

This situation will not contribute to discussions being held in good faith.

It is thus in everyone’s interest that we gather and disseminate as much evidence, facts and data in coming weeks so as for everyone participating to be well informed towards producing the best possible outcomes at October’s land conference.

Against this backdrop, the ACTION Coalition calls on relevant government authorities to make publicly available whatever information and data it has on critical land issues, so as to quell some of the polarisation and conflict already raging around certain land issues, as well as to allow all citizens and interested parties an opportunity to gain a more informed picture of land matters.