September 8, 2005

Land reform too slow, says ministry

The Ministry of Lands and Resettlement has expressed concern at the slow pace of land reform, saying the existing framework is tainted by bureaucratic procedures. Speaking at the official opening in Windhoek of a symposium on land reform in Namibia and southern Africa, Permanent Secretary Frans Tsheehama said that the procedures that needed to be followed before acquisition were the prime cause of the delay. As a result, said Tsheehama, land offers received could not be adequately assessed on time. "The land reform programme is presently characterised by procedures that have resulted in a slow pace of delivery. Land offers received cannot be adequately assessed on time," he said.
From a Government perspective, the challenge was "to fast-track these processes through a review of procedures and improved levels of integration across the line institutions". Tsheehama said a critical assessment of the cumbersome processes had been done, but more needed to be accomplished. He also challenged the owners of multiple farms to come up with workable and tangible efforts that would make land available at affordable prices at the right time. Despite a N$50-million budget from the treasury every year for land acquisition through the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle, the response from landholders was far below expectation, he said. "The pace at which the farm offers are coming out to the market is very slow. Most of the farms received are from low rainfall areas or in many cases, the farms are too small for someone to make a living. Such farms will, naturally, be found to be unsuitable for resettlement and waived," Tsheehama noted. With the pace of land reform being so slow, Government was considering compulsory acquisition as another legal option. The Permanent Secretary remarked: "I would like to make it clear that Government was very cautious and clear when it adopted to employ this method of land acquisition.“Land holders must therefore be assured that the expropriation programme will be done in accordance with the Constitution and the laws governing the country."
In a bid to avoid catastrophic consequences and ensure sustainable growth of the agriculture sector, Government said it was imperative to "de-racialise" farming. According to Tsheehama, it was calling upon key stakeholders to set up permanent platforms for dialogue meant to steer a transparent and democratic national land reform programme. As the Government showed it has acquired some 146 farms with a combined size of 932.864 hectares for N$131.217.554. A total of 1.552 families have been settled on the acquired commercial farms since 1990. The Ministry of Agriculture expects to acquire 15 million hectares of land by 2020 to resettle more than 240.000 people. (The Namibian, Windhoek)


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