Land (Economic) Transformation/Empowerment

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Land transformation, like skills development, affirmative procurement, etc, is one way of economically empowering the people. Land, like access to finance, still remains very much inaccessible for the majority of Namibians. Note, (not I, but) the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act 6 of 1995 states in its preamble: “… to provide for the acquisition of agricultural land by the State for the purposes of land reform and for the allocation of such land to Namibian citizens who do not own or otherwise have the use of any or of adequate agricultural land, and foremost to those Namibian citizens who have been socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged by past discriminatory laws or practices.” It is common knowledge that the government is being frustrated in its land transformation process for reasons such as (see: Minister’s remarks in the PTT on Land Reform): – the “unavailability” of land (land owners not coming to the assistance of government in making land transformation work); – if land does become available, the cost is a factor. What avenues are there for the government to acquire land? In terms of the applicable law, government can acquire land through: – the exercise of its pre-emptive right to buy land in the event of a willing seller-willing buyer transaction; – the compulsory acquisition of land by means of expropriation. In both these instances, provision is made in the relevant legislations dealing with the acquisition of land, for reasonable and fair compensation in exchange for land. The above two options are the only ones available to the government. It is, of course, a fact that, during the colonial periods, many indigenous Namibians lost their land when the land was forcefully and illegally taken from them. We, however, do not have a legal provision for the restitution of land rights which would entitle those who lost their land to reclaim these rights. This would have been an option available to government in the process of land transformation – something for government to consider. Our land is the primary source of empowering the people and to meaningfully make an impact on economic transformation. For how long will we as Namibians look on how foreigners are trading with this primary and scarce commodity to our detriment and that of our children? Last year, we read in the newspapers of two South African brothers who own 70ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 hectares of prime Namibian land (natural resource) boasting about how they would develop that prime piece of land into the biggest game lodge in (Namibia) Africa, if not in the whole world, to the tune of billions of Namibian dollars. Barely 12 months later we read that this piece of land might be sold to a Russian oil magnate to the tune of N$100 million. Why is the wealth of the country and the economic prosperity of the people locked up in this land? Why can the owners of this land not use the riches they accumulated from this Namibian resource to plough it back for the benefit of themselves, Namibia and its people? The owners of this land now have the chance to prove to the nation that they will unlock the potential that they talk about and which is locked up in the land, and develop it to its full potential for the good of all. Have you imagined yourself, a black Namibian, going to Russia and applying for a diamond concession, and if you fail you take the government to court, to Spain and apply for a fishing concession, to South Africa, Germany, France or Austria and acquire a farm of 70ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 hectares? Do not even try. What do some people think of the Namibian people, the authorities and the laws of the country? Do they not think our government also needs the land to empower its own people? It is so obvious from such intentions that they do not know what to do with the land. It is understandable – the land is too big for so few people. It can be more useful for about 35 families who so desperately need land, and this land would so perfectly fit in with our national land transformation plans. Just think what the Namibian people could do with these 70ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 hectares with proper education, planning and access to finance – establish the largest community-based tourist management project, commercial farming; game farming; mineral exploitation, etc., etc. This is a once-off opportunity for the government to acquire about 26 farms at one go in line with the government’s land transformation policy and the laws of the land. These farms could all be located in one area, making control and supervision so much easier and less costly. If I were to be the adviser of the Minister of Lands and Resettlement, I would have advised the Minister, in the national interest, to acquire this land in compliance with the laws of the land. D. CONRADIE