August 17, 2006

Namibia continues land redistribution despite problems

Land reform has been too slow and cumbersome, Minister of Lands and Resettlement Jerry Ekandjo said at the launch of a report on land reform, but it vowed to continue a legal process that will deliver farms to its dispossessed black population. He stressed that despite the drawbacks of the willing-seller willing-buyer policy, his ministry had managed to acquire 197 commercial farms and resettle 1.616 families. That was still just a small percentage of the target of 9.5 million hectares, he said. Namibia has indicated it might start land seizures but so far has only expropriated one farm. "I equally wish to give assurance to the landowners and the relevant stakeholders, that expropriation would be done within the context of the policy and framework of the Republic of Namibia," Ekandjo said.
Government will also have to shell out a staggering N$3,7 billion over the next 15 years to acquire a targeted 10,3 million hectares of commercial farm land to resettle 6 727 families by 2020, the Land Reform Report and Strategic Action Plan has further revealed. Another five million hectares of communal land will be portioned off into small farming units. Support services for resettled beneficiaries will come to a further N$1,4 million for the same period, while N$ 53,3 million a year will be needed to develop communal land. Cabinet recently approved the recommendations made in the report, which was mainly financed by Germany, Britain and the US. Developing the five million hectares of communal land for small-scale farming will require an additional N$ 53,3 million a year. "Developing communal land is a crucial component to land reform," the report says.
"If the land issue is not resolved, it can have political, economic and social implications for Namibia's socio-economic development," Ekandjo further emphasised. "For the successful implementation of the land reform programme as outlined in the Strategic Action Plan, regional councils and local authorities have a crucial role to play. Community involvement and mass participation in development efforts is recognised to be at the heart of the Government's land reform in order to promote a participatory approach, as there can be no effective development without community participation," he stressed. The Minister assured land owners and stakeholders that Government would continue implementing land reform in line with the relevant laws. "I acknowledge the sensitivity and resistance that has been involved in this (expropriation) process, but I want to give the assurance that expropriation would be done within the context of the (land) policy and the legal framework, Ekandjo further said.“ As land is compulsorily acquired, fair compensation is paid to those from whom the land is being acquired."
The new German Ambassador to Namibia, Arne Freiherr von Kittlitz, said the 15-year land reform plan provided clear perspectives and transparency. "Namibia's success in this endeavour will further contribute to her reputation as a paragon of stability and political far-sightedness and thus setting an example from which others can lean," the German Ambassador noted. Namibia has about 69 million hectares of land that can be used for agriculture. About half of that (36 million ha) is freehold land, owned by some 4.000 commercial farmers, with 800 of them already affirmative action farmers from a previously disadvantaged background. Approximately 33 million ha are communal or non-freehold land. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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