Land issue a Hot Topic

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The price of farmland and the summary expropriation of farms owned by absentee landlords and foreigners featured prominently during question time following the President’s State of the Nation address in the National Assembly yesterday. Chief Justus Garoeb of the United Democratic Front (UDF) wanted to know what President Hifikepunye Pohamba and his government intend to do about the price of land in the country that is deliberately being inflated to make it impossible to buy. “I agree with chief Garoeb that prices of land are inflated. Unfortunately expropriation of land is a constitutional process allowing owners and sellers of such land to determine the price of land. Under the willing-buyer-willing-seller system such owners have the prerogative to argue, take or leave, making things difficult for the government,” President Pohamba answered. The Head of State assured the House that his government is doing its best to negotiate and persuade such landowners to assist in availing land to the historically landless in the country. Garoeb also asked that the selling process of land be seriously looked at for land price differentiation. “I also want to know what the government is doing to bring the price of land back to ‘normal’,” the UDF leader asked and suggested the country be divided into capacity carrying zones. Pohamba responded by informing Garoeb that under the country’s Constitution it would also be a difficult task. In further parliamentary interaction the leader of NUDO, chief Kuaima Rirua-ko, was adamant that about 200 farms allegedly owned by the German government be summarily expropriated. “As former Minister of Lands and Resettlement I have taken time to check the names of farm owners. I never came across documentation indicating the German government’s ownership of such Namibian farms. It’s really news to me. However, we can re-check what the situation is,” the President informed the chief who alleged that the German government used farm managers to manage its farm property in the country. Katuutire Kaura of the DTA wanted to know how long the expropriation process will take in the opinion of the President. “We live in a country ruled by laws and regulations. It’s not a case where a minister one morning wakes up and announces that today the expropriation process takes place and ends at a time he thinks it should. Moving the process forward can be slow with regard to decision-making. The process will be done with fair compensation as stipulated under the policy. We are getting there. Up to now one or two farms have already been expropriated,” Pohamba responded. Asked by the leader of the Congress of Democrats, Ben Ulenga when and whether the President was prepared to make known the contents of the many Presidential Commissions over the years and what the government is actually doing in rooting out the evil of corruption in the country, he replied: “I would like to thank the leader of the Congress of Democrats for supporting me and my government in our efforts to root out corruption in the country. However, I want to appeal to all parties let’s forget political differences and work collectively together to root out corruption as our common enemy.” Presently the Head of State is studying some 13 such Presidential Commission reports. “These are voluminous reports to study and it will take some time to read them all. There are definitely some of these reports that need to be made public, some immediately, others not, but eventually others, too,” he said. In his second State of the Nation address since he came to power, the Head of State yesterday praised, encouraged, accoladed, reprimanded and warned the nation on specific national issues. “In self-evaluating we have realised that we are on the right track and direction with our aims and objectives in government. However, in some areas we have not been that successful. We need to adhere to a pragmatic approach in government and apply remedies to achieve success in those areas in tackling the complex process of nation building,” the President lamented. He went on to invite all Namibians to get practically involved in the nation building process. “Together we can secure a bright future for all Namibians. Let us unite and position ourselves and work together for a better future. There is room for all of us. Let us embrace the policy of reconciliation, collectively root out corruption and make Namibia a nation of hard workers,” the President told the House in a record time speech of 95 minutes. Highlights of the State of the Nation Address will be published next Tuesday.