Can Hage butter your bread?

November 12, 2012, 4:35 am


GN: I remember the last time I saw you, you told me that the struggle to become an independent nation was not nearly as difficult as running an independent nation. Do you still hold to that?
HG: Well, I still hold to that. You see, when you are waging a liberation struggle, your enemy is clearly identified. You know your enemy. You are fighting against colonialism. But after independence, you have to now have a balancing act. It calls for leadership, actually, that even your former enemies become subjects, and they need your protection. They need you to provide them with jobs and training. And then you have different aspects of ethnic and regional interest.
So a leader is called upon in modern African situations to now balance, to have exclusive in a government. The government is now becoming a partnership where you have to involve all the stakeholders, citizens, that is. If you are going to exclude some parts, it’s going to tear it down through the - some kind of uprisings and so on.
So in a partnership, you must be exclusive - inclusive, inclusive, and you must be transparent in how you run the country, and be accountable to those people. Once you do that, some kind of trust will develop, and they will now trust you and now allow you to do what you are supposed to do to run the country. It’s very difficult.
GN: But there’s an old saying that there can be no major surgery without pain, and there has been an inequity, going back to when it was Southwest Africa, of land ownership. And so to rectify that, some people in Namibia are going to have to be inconvenienced who are from Europe.
HG: Yes, yes, you see, the land question is sometimes misunderstood in Europe and other parts of the world. The struggle for liberation, the liberation war that we were waging, was about land. We were telling our fighters simply that, “Fight and free your land, fight and free your country.”
So obviously after we have freed the country, people want their land. They say, “Where is the land we fought for? You told us we are fighting for our land.” Now it calls for leadership qualities that will now - because you now have to be fair to all the citizens who are living in that country.
You - now we articulate the policy, national policy, of reconciliation. You know, it’s a very sad situation that today there are my colleagues, ministers, who are sitting in the cabinet, all who had been in a situation where a person was torturing them, the policeman who was torturing them will be sitting there, and they are joking, saying, Do you remember that day when you were torturing me, and I had this pain? And so on. And they laugh.
That’s Africa. You only hear about bad things Africans do. But such heart that you can forgive your enemy, somebody who was torturing, about to kill you, and you are saying, Brother, let’s live together in this country.
We have done that because we are a political power, and we brought about national reconciliation, saying, Let’s hold hands. But we are also saying that you have the power over economy and the land. Come also halfway and meet us so we can also reconcile at the level of land and economy.
GN: And what has their response been?
HG: Well, I must say, we in Namibia had a land conference at our [unintelligible] in ‘90, ‘91, from the outset of our independence, knowing land was the banner issue. At that conference, we deliberated on, we brought all the sectors of our society, and we had interpretations in six languages so that everybody must understand. We were saying those who are land-greedy must come and tell us why they are greedy about land, and those who are land-hungry must also come and tell us why they are so hungry.
It was a beautiful gathering. People discussed openly. And we had some conclusions at the end. One, we had difficulty about the ancestral land question. We said, “Who is really the proper owner of the land?” That’s very difficult to decide on that. So we said, “OK, that is not possible to practice, to implement, so let’s shelve it, let’s leave it, and go on to other issues, usage of land, ownership, and so on.”
After long, long debate, we decided, in the spirit of reconciliation, compromise, again. We are the only ones who are compromising, it seems. So we had to agree to share the land. And our constitution is very clear that there’s a protection of property rights, and land is also included in that clause of property.
So we are saying, OK, willing buyer, willing seller concept will apply. And we have been buying land. And while we are doing that as leaders, our people - we are becoming very unpopular. Our people are saying, during the - this government, you are telling us not to buy stolen goods, like a television set is stolen. We are saying, don’t buy stolen goods. But why are you buying stolen goods like land?
GN: That’s a tough question to answer.
HG: That’s a very tough question. But leadership is there to provide [unintelligible], [unintelligible]. So you have to tell them, you have to guide them in the direction they don’t want to go to. Then you are a leader. So we are saying, look, this is very important. If you are going to start a war again, you can’t talk about the land. You can’t -- you see, war, what the war does to innocent and weaker population, the women and children, the war isn’t a good thing. So if you have peace, idea is to maintain that peace.
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GN: Let’s proceed with this discussion of land. The criticisms that you quoted at the end of the last segment seem to ring true. Why give money to somebody who - for land that they did not pay for themselves? And if it is right to give them money for land that they didn’t pay for, isn’t it right to give money to the people who they got the land from in the first place?
HG: Well, you see, the problem is, you are dealing with the issue that is maybe 100 years old. Now if somebody came and stole the land 100 years ago, that person is dead by now. Now, are you going to visit the sins of the fathers to the child? If a child was born on that land and that person was born on Namibian soil, he didn’t come from Europe or she didn’t come from Europe, now the issue you have to decide as a leader is, are you going to say that child, a white child, who was born at that farm, doesn’t have any protection from Namibian constitution? That’s one issue.
I also always add to same that, is black child - I was a child once in a while - this black child was also born on Namibian soil, but I was born - it’s a - this is a true story - I was born at the farm of a white person.
GN: Really.
HG: And I don’t have any right as kick out from there. Right now that farm is there, I’m back now as a prime minister, I know the place I was born. It’s not mine. I want to buy it, I have to buy some other place to go, it’s not mine, it’s somebody else’s property.
Now, that’s a reality also. I am saying, we cannot punish the child because the father stole the land. So we are saying, let’s also reconcile. I talk to the white people who own the land. I have been going around, and I said, “My brothers and sisters, if you own 10 farms, one person, if you own 65,000 hectares of land - multiply by two or three, you could get the acres, you can get the size that we’re talking about. This is true, we are not making problems, these are realities.”
And I would say, “Why don’t you just give 10,000 hectares of land to your people, your brothers and sisters, who are working on that land, together with you? Some were born there, and they work until they are useless, old.”
GN: What do they say?
HG: They said, “I have my constitutional rights, constitutional rights.” And I said, my dear, that constitution that I was the author of is written in English, English. And maybe only about 1 percent of Namibians speak English. If you are using that as your protection, you are making a mistake. It’s not yet internalized. The Namibians, like Americans, say, I plead to the Fifth Amendment, they can’t do that yet, they aren’t yet that educated and that informed, or have internalized that constitution to use it as protector.
I gave them example of one king somewhere in Africa, wanted to do something, and bureaucrats came and told him, “No, your majesty, you cannot do it.” And he said, “Why? Because the constitution says so.” They said, “Oh.” The second day, he wanted to do the same thing, and they said again, “Bring that constitution,” he said. They brought the paper. He said, “This paper is stopping me, King So-and-so, not to do what I want to do.” And he tore the constitution and threw it out and said, Now I can do what I want to do. The bureaucrats said, the king suspended the constitution.
Now, that’s a paper. I respect the paper. That’s why we struggled to draft it. But it has to be internalized that all of us can die by it, not yet.
So I told them that, and I said, now, let’s not talk about the paper, the rights. Rights have to be learned and people have to accept them. But it’s a two-way street. Rights are not only for you. How about me? I was born on the land of Namibia, which I don’t own today. And if we talk about reconciliation, why is it a one-way street? We must always have balance.
GN: Where are the discussions now?
HG: Discussions are that in our case, we respect the law, as a country governed by law, even if it is maybe unjust - that’s another element. Question of justice. We are buying the land. When we are buying the land, although other people are opposed to that - and you also little bit laugh, I see that - we buy the land. The moment the land owners realize that we set aside money to buy the land, prices shot up.
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GN: Mr. Prime Minister has there been any squatting on lands that are held by people of European origin in Namibia?
HG: No, no.
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GN: How does it sit with you, what’s going on in Zimbabwe, and how -- do you support what Mr. Mugabe is saying?
HG: What I said at the meeting where President Mugabe was there, and my president, we were observing our new day, our liberation day, 25th of May. And they addressed the rallies, [unintelligible] rally, the two presidents. And I was asked to express the vote of thanks.
What I have said is that what is happening in Zimbabwe is -- should be a wakeup call for Namibians, it’s a wakeup call, a wakeup call in the sense that we want to follow the constitution. And it’s a wakeup call also to the world, because we are buying the land, we have now just amended our law to set up the fund, to raise fund also from Germany, from Europeans, who have [unintelligible] or they are cousins there.
Because the problem of Europeans and white folks is that -- I was telling the European ambassador, said, You people want to save 1 million today, you are so stingy. We are saying, Give that money to buy the land. You are stingy, you don’t want to give the money. But if things are going to go wrong, then you will come and spend billion dollars plus loss of lives. Why don’t you be proactive? We are planning, we as new Africans, only 10 years old, want to do things properly, legally, and so on, but we don’t get the help.
Now, even Zimbabweans are saying that. At the Lancaster House Conference, there was an agreement that British will give money to buy land. Americans also are going to pledge. That money didn’t come, Zimbabweans are saying. Then they have again a conference to restate the fact, and they are saying that money didn’t come. And we thought it was not true, but British government confirmed, and they are saying, they have now 36 million pounds, but they are putting their conditions.
So I’m not going to talk about Zimbabwe, but I’m talking about the land question in Namibia, which is similar. And we are saying, “We are buying the land. Help us to buy the land so we can solve the problem constitutionally and legally, so that Namibians who were robbed of their land can at least get it back by us as leaders, because in the interests of peace and reconciliation, buying the stolen goods.”
While we are becoming unpopular with our people, we take that risk, but help us to buy the land so that we can settle our people. Because settling them we must do. Otherwise, we are sitting on a powder keg.
GN: Aside from the money issue, has there been an opportunity for those who have been disenfranchised under the old regime to now own land? Has there been land reform? Has there been Africans in Namibia farming and owning land now? Has there been a change?
HG: Well, the change is effected through what I have just described. And yes, there are Africans who are owning land. There are Africans who are also living in what was formerly so-called homelands. That land is stateland, and they are on that land. But it’s not enough. So that’s why we are saying--
GN: I see.
HG: - we must help those areas also to be developed, we must train people, we must extend credit facilities to them, because it’s no use to have a land and see it--
GN: That’s right.
HG: - unintelligible] say, It’s my land, it must be productive.
GN: Right.
HG: You must be able to feed yourself -
GN: Right.
HG: --and feed the nation. Now, if you’re only just going to grab it and you sit on it, there will be no productivity. The country’s going to starve, see. So we are trying to combine all these things, these elements, training, credit facilities to be extended, and then extension services also to be extended, so that the people who are buying the land, and those whom we are settling on the farms. We have criteria, first take those who were in exile, those who fought, must be the first ones to be settled. Then those who were disadvantaged in the struggle, second category. And then the last time you can settle the rest.
So in that way, we are settling, we’re settling people, but we discovered that they are unproductive. So we have to give them training, some kind of [unintelligible] backstopping, so that they can be productive. That’s our approach. – ABC-Television