September 5, 2002

NAMIBIA: Government Land Move

Namibian President Sam Nujoma announced on August, 26, that Government will expropriate 192 farms belonging to absentee landlords in accordance with the law. Namibian Government has said it will keep to the 'willing seller, willing buyer' policy but has complained about the inflated prices of farms. Over the past 10 years, land prices in Namibia have increased by more than 200 per cent, on average, from an average N$70 a hectare to over N$300 a hectare.

In the last week of August, Swapo Congress said a large number of farms owned by foreign absentee landlords remained under-utilised. Government records indicate that South African nationals own at least 82 farms totalling around 805 699 hectares of land while Germans own a further 82 farms which total 337 849 hectares. Cabinet said the figures represented only a fraction of farms owned by foreign nationals in the country. Many farms owned by foreigners in closed corporations with Namibians were still under investigation.

In 1995 alone, close to 275 farms or six million hectares were converted into closed corporations as gifts or donations. Government has acquired in excess of 567 000 hectares of freehold farmland since Independence, spending over N$70 million in the process. About 243 000 communal farmers are still waiting for land. To resettle them, Government needs N$900 million to buy 9,5 million hectares. According to Government statistics, about 30,5 million hectares is owned by white farmers and only 2,2 million hectares by black farmers. Absentee landlords own a further 2,9 million hectares while the state owns only 2,3 million hectares.

The Namibian Human Rights Group National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has welcomed this decision but says the land should be handed over to Hereros and Namas. The NSHR believes Namas and Hereros should receive the farms as reparations for the treatment of their people during the German colonial era. "NSHR is particularly concerned whether such farms are to be used for the resettlement of people who have lost their land in the past. We also appeal to the Government to see to it that the process of land redistribution all over the country is conducted in a fair and transparent manner," the rights group said in a statement.

Large sections of the Herero and Nama populations were wiped out under German rule in the early 1900s. The Hereros have filed a case in the United States Superior Court of the District of Columbia suing the German government for US$2 billion. They have filed another case against two German companies. They accuse the companies and the German government of forming a "brutal alliance" to exterminate over 65 000 Hereros between 1904 and 1907. (THE NAMIBIAN)

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