June 17, 2004

Unity against racist farmers / Britain willing to assist on land reform

President Sam Nujoma has warned that minority racist white commercial farmers trying to distort the facts on Namibia's land reform programme to the outside world would face far reaching consequences. Addressing the nation on national television, Nujoma said the land question was sensitive and, if not handled carefully and maturely, will have far reaching economic and political consequences. Reacting to a recent meeting of a group of white farmers who vowed to fight the unlawful expropriation of farms, Nujoma said expropriation will go ahead "in the public interest" and in line with relevant laws and procedures. Describing national reconciliation as a "two-way street", Nujoma said it was supposed to heal the wounds of the past and unite Namibians. "Although my Government extended a hand of friendship the white landowners, some have continued to abuse our policy of national reconciliation and mistreat their farm workers. "I would like to warn the minority racist commercial farmers that any farm owner who illegally evicts farm workers is considered a criminal and will feel the full wrath of the laws of the Republic of Namibia," he said. A small clique of defiant white farmers had before met at Gobabis and agreed to pool resources to prevent the State from dealing with individuals. They vowed to "fight or go. We will not lie down or crawl".

In the meantime, the Namibia Farmworkers' Union has also announced that it was consulting fellow unionists in a bid to lay charges of incitement against a group of white farmers who vowed last week to fight the expropriation of farms. Nafwu General Secretary Alfred Angula also warned the small faction of unsatisfied farmers that they would not be able to handle the consequences. "They are day-dreamers who need to wake up from their dreams and face the reality. Swapo will wipe them [out] within a second. They should not play with fire," Angula said. The farmers union's leader accused the Namibia Farmers Support Initiative (NFSI) and the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) of double standards when they made public statements that the two supported expropriation on the one hand while at the same time questioning the criteria that the Government was using. "If the white colleagues do not want expropriation of land, we can always introduce a new method, which is taking the land without compensation or sharing it with them by force," Angula said.



Information Permanent Secretary Mocks Shivute also said the Government had conducted its business in the most humane way possible and there was no reason for antagonism. He said the utterances were "unfortunate, inciting and racist". The Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) has distanced itself from the Gobabis meeting and promised to continue with its negotiations with the Government.

In a separate development, Great Britain has announced that it was ready to provide more technical assistance towards Namibia's land reform programme. The head of the Commonwealth delegation that visited Namibia, Ian Davidson, told Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab that Britain was ready to provide support to help Namibia solve the burning land issue. According to Davidson the Lands Minister Hifikepunye Pohamba briefed them on the progress made with the land reform programme so far and they were impressed by how Namibia was handling the issue. He said Britain had a number of things to learn from Namibia, with the fishing sector's performance topping the list. Gurirab told the delegation that the land reform programme was a "sensitive issue" but it was not necessary to fight over land. Namibia's land reform programme is already receiving technical assistance from Germany. Last year the German government said it would pump 23 million Euros into the Namibian economy over the next two years. The funding has been be channelled towards road improvement, land reform, rural development, natural resources and economic growth. Germany also promised to help with training for resettlement and infrastructure development. No money was given for the purchase of farms. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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