April 1, 2005

New anti-corruption stance hailed / Pressure on “reluctant” farmers

Namibia's new President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, has announced a new zero-tolerance policy towards corruption and inefficiency. Government was to address corruption "with a sledgehammer." This new effort by President Pohamba was hailed by Namibian human rights groups, saying corruption had "become endemic" during ex-President Sam Nujoma's era. Already during his inaugural speech on 21 March this year, President Pohamba declared "zero tolerance for waste and corruption" and solemnly pledged that he would personally set an example in that regard. Addressing his first cabinet meeting, President Pohamba listed several concrete preventive and curative measures to be instituted to eradicate corruption, lethargy and inefficiency in the public service. President Pohamba's anti-corruption administrative policies include meritorious recruitment of civil servants, restriction on internal and foreign junkets, and enforcement of Ministerial accountability and strengthening of the existing public service legislation. He told Namibia's new ministers that his government "is fully committed to addressing corruption with a sledgehammer". President Pohamba also directed Prime Minister Nahas Angula "to put in place immediately effective legislative measures necessary for the efficient and proper management of our parastatals."
In the meantime, government has asked 14 commercial farmers, whose 24 farms have been identified for expropriation, to submit reasons why their land cannot be taken. They are among 192 land owners, mainly foreign absentee landlords, who were informed last year that their farms had been earmarked for expropriation. At the time, former President Nujoma announced that it was part of the State's plans to speed up land reform over the next five years. As far as this newspaper could establish, the 14 owners are reported to be reluctant to give up their farms, and have indicated this to Government. "No new farms have been identified. The Government is awaiting the responses to study them [farmers' responses]," said one of the sources. If Government doesn't accept the reasons given by the 14 land owners, the issue is likely to go to the Lands Tribunal. Farmers who are willing to give up their land are expected to name a price and hope that it meets with Government approval. Where agreement cannot be reached, Government can expropriate the land and pay the farmer an amount it considers to be 'just'. After Government identified the farms, it approached individual farmers despite a request by the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) to set up a negotiating team to mediate in the sale of farmland. Such a team was supposed to represent farmers and the Government and serve as a mediator between the seller and the buyer.
The NAU said expropriation was inevitable, but it wanted the Ministry of Lands to first convene a conference to clarify "grey areas" and formulate "a nationally acceptable, politically and economically sustainable expropriation policy". The 'grey areas' farmers refer to include definitions of the terms national interest, just compensation and market price. Former Lands Minister and now President of Namibia, Hifikepunye Pohamba, has previously told Namibian farmers that land reform would be carried out within the context of the law and that just compensation would be paid. The majority of farmers believe that the willing-seller, willing-buyer concept is still the cheapest, least disruptive and most acceptable option. Uncertainty over the future of their farms has seen several farmers cancel plans to develop their land. They also claim the process was negatively affecting the national economy. (afrol News)

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