April 13, 2006

21 farms bought by government in 2005

Government has foreign-owned farms in its sights for expropriation, President Hifikepunye Pohamba told Parliament when he answered opposition parliamentarians' questions after his State of the Nation address. Three of the six opposition-party MPs who posed questions to the President after his speech had the land issue on their mind. DTA President Katuutire Kaura asked the President for how long non-Namibians would still be owning farms in Namibia, and when these farms would be expropriated; Nudo leader Kuaima Riruako claimed that the German government owned more than 200 farms in Namibia, and advised that this land should be taken over by Government, "just like that"; and UDF leader Justus GaroŽb, stating that land prices in Namibia are inflated and unaffordable for most people, asked whether something in the vein of price controls could be done to address this situation.

He has been Lands Minister in the past and he has had a check done at the Deeds Office on land ownership in Namibia, and no farms that were registered in the name of the German government were traced in that process, Pohamba answered Riruako. On Kaura's question, he answered that it had to be kept in mind that expropriation was a process that took time and that had to be done in accordance with the country's laws. "We are living in a country that must be governed by the rule of law. Everything must be done lawfully and procedurally," Pohamba said. He added that a decision has already been taken that land will be expropriated - but together with this, fair compensation will have to be paid for land that the State acquires through that process. It would not be a process like the confiscation of land from "our forefathers", who were not compensated for land that was taken away from them, he stated.
Government's position is that Namibian farms belonging to people from other countries should be expropriated in order for that land to be distributed among landless Namibians, he added.

The President said he agreed with GaroŽb that land prices were inflated in Namibia.
Namibia's Constitution, which protects property rights, however allowed people to ask the price that they wanted for their land, he continued: "Somebody tells you, either you take it or you leave it. It's my property." Government would not be able to impose prices for land, he said, since property rights are contained in the Constitution's bill of rights, which is untouchable. "You touch it, you destroy this country," Pohamba said.

One of the things that he would like to see when he reaches the end of his term in office, the President added in response to a question from Republican Party leader Henk Mudge, is that land would have been made available to landless Namibians by then.
In the past financial year, he had stated in his main speech, Government bought 21 farms, with a total area of about 165.000 hectares, under the willing-seller, willing-buyer principle as part of its land-reform programme. The State collected more than N$27 million through land tax over the same period, he said. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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