WINDHOEK – Parliament will open its next session with the tabling of a Bill that seeks to prohibit the registration of commercial farmland as business entities in the form of close corporations.
The National Assembly resumes on September 18. Swapo Deputy Secretary General, Nangolo Mbumba, revealed the plans for the new Bill in an exclusive interview with New Era at the closing of the Swapo Party National Policy Conference, which ended in Windhoek yesterday.
“This issue is urgent. There is a law to be tabled at the opening of parliament next week to help resolve the matter,” Mbumba said.
Many farm owners register their commercial farms as close corporations, and such farmland is treated as a business entity when sold to the next person. Mbumba says the practice pushes up the purchase price and bypasses the legal requirement that government be given the first option to purchase any commercial farm.
“It [the practice] is cheating, it is not fair,” Mbumba said.
Land ownership was one of the prominent topics at the policy conference, with suggestions to change sections of the Local Authorities Act of 1992 and ban town councils from selling land through auction or tender.
The calls are for changes that would allow government to regulate all urban land under town councils. The Local Authorities Act gives town councils power to sell and lease urban land without consulting the line ministry.
The conference proposals were that non-Namibian citizens only acquire land through leasing for a period not exceeding 30 years on a renewable basis, and that foreign nationals only sell back land to Namibian citizens.
Mbumba said the policy conference recommendations “are very clear that buying should be for citizens only and foreigners only lease land”.
The conference also agreed that the auction of municipal land to the highest bidders be banned to allow for the urban poor and middle-income earners to access land, and central government could subsidise local authorities to make land cheaper.
Nevertheless, these recommendations still have to go through the ruling party’s next congress for more discussions before implementation. “Things should be done procedurally and within the law,” Mbumba said of the suggestions to change the Act.
Land has been a thorny issue in the Namibian political and social landscape, with the urban poor the most affected. There has been a public outcry over inflated urban land, with prices inflated by 30 percent in certain instances.
Other recommendations passed at the conference are to reduce bureaucracy in the health sector to allow for regional hospitals to make critical life-saving decisions.
Mbumba said the conference agreed that hospitals and health personnel should be allowed to make instant critical life-saving decisions on cases they are working on, as opposed to the current bureaucratic system where decisions have to be made by a body or designated physicians.
It was also recommended that vocational education be strengthened to reduce the shortage of skills in the country. “If someone has no skills or experience until the age of 35, [such a person is] more likely to never be employed. Employers need people they can nurture and train,” Mbumba said.